Alex Wubbels addressed advocating for patients, self during speech

Johnny Morris

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Nurses need to have the courage to advocate for themselves and for their patients, said University of Utah trauma nurse Alex Wubbels.

She stressed the importance of having a team of support as a nurse because burnout in the nursing field is common. Thus, it is good to have people around to help cope with the demands of the job.

Wubbels received national attention in 2017 after a video surfaced showing her refusing to allow a Salt Lake City officer to draw blood from an unconscious patient without a warrant because it went against hospital policy. The officer arrested and assaulted her for refusing to allow the draw.

“My intention for releasing the footage was to open a dialogue about nurse abuse and to start a conversation about the issue,” Wubbels said.

She told students that, as nurses, they should create a support system of other hospital staff and nurses to help deal with the demands of the job and to advocate for each other.

Before the officer arrested her, Wubbels had called her supervisor, the hospital policy and others to confirm that she was following hospital policy and to try to get help with the situation. Even though they all backed her up, she was still arrested.

However, she said that having their support helped get her through the incident.

“It’s a perfect example of what can happen in the real world,” said Derek Westover, a senior in health services administration.

He said that Wubbels’ story opened a good discussion on how to handle ethics in community health and how to stand up to unethical behavior.

Wubbels partnered with American Nurses Association (ANA) to help spearhead the online campaign #EndNurseAbuse.

The campaign was created for folks to take a pledge to stand against nurse abuse because they face workplace violence in the form of physical assault, verbal abuse and bullying. These abuses can come from staff, patients or other parties not involved with the hospital.

According to the ANA website, “such acts of aggression — be they verbal or physical — are entirely unacceptable, whether delivered by patients or colleagues.”

This is part of an ongoing campaign to raise awareness about the violence nurses face and how to curb incidences of it.

Since the incident, Wubbels has appeared on news stations across the country and has begun speaking about the important role nurses play and the abuses that they often suffer.

University of Utah Hospital has since changed its policy to provide more protections for nurses and no longer allows officers in patient care areas.

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