SILVER SPRING, MD – The American Nurses Association (ANA) is outraged that a registered nurse was handcuffed and arrested by a police officer for following her hospital’s policy and the law, and is calling for the Salt Lake City Police Department to conduct a full investigation, make amends to the nurse, and take action to prevent future abuses.
The incident occurred July 26 at University Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah and video footage of the incident was recently released. Registered nurse Alex Wubbels was arrested after refusing to draw blood from an unconscious patient who had been injured in a collision and was a patient on the burn unit.
According to the video, Nurse Wubbels shared details about the hospital’s policy with the police officers and consulted her supervisors in responding to the detective’s request. Wubbels cited the hospital’s policy, stating that blood could not be taken from an unconscious patient unless the patient is under arrest, a warrant had been issued for the blood draw, or the patient consents. The police officers stated that they had implied consent to get the blood sample and they believed that the hospital’s policy contravened their duty to enforce the law. However, "implied consent" has not been Utah law for more than a decade. Additionally, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that warrantless blood tests go against privacy interests and public safety and therefore are not allowed.
"It is outrageous and unacceptable that a nurse should be treated in this way for following her professional duty to advocate on behalf of the patient as well as following the policies of her employer and the law," said ANA President Pam Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN.
According to the Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements, “the nurse promotes, advocates for, and protects the rights, health, and safety of the patient.”
Unfortunately, nurses often are victims of violence on the job. In 2015, ANA adopted a policy of “zero tolerance” for workplace violence and called on nurses and their employers to work together to prevent and reduce the incidence of workplace violence.
“Nurses and police officers work collaboratively in many communities,” said Cipriano. “What occurred is simply outrageous and unacceptable. Nurse Wubbels did everything right. It is imperative that law enforcement and nursing professionals respect each other and resolve conflicts through dialogue and due process.”
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The American Nurses Association (ANA) is the premier organization representing the interests of the nation's 4 million registered nurses. ANA advances the nursing profession by fostering high standards of nursing practice, promoting a safe and ethical work environment, bolstering the health and wellness of nurses, and advocating on health care issues that affect nurses and the public. ANA is at the forefront of improving the quality of health care for all. For more information, visit www.nursingworld.org.