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9 Reasons Why Nurse Alex Wubbels Made Me Even Prouder That I Am a Nurse

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By Sheena Maireen Saavedra, BSN, R.N.

Oh yes. I’d love to think of myself as a superhero in disguise without the cape. After all, I am a nurse, just like you. I can be the person who will be brave enough to protect you from death itself.

But certainly, there are times that the hero within can be the victim too. And the sad truth that follows is the realization that if you are the hero, who will be brave enough to save you? Nada.

Take for example the case of Alex Wubbels, a nurse in Utah who drew worldwide admiration and appreciation after she stood her ground and refused the blood extraction of her unconscious patient. The said patient could not give consent, nor was there a warrant for the said order. The patient, who got involved in a vehicular accident, was suspected of substance abuse – hence the need for a blood sample – except something needs to be done first as protocol. Almost everyone must have seen that video footage that has gone viral last week. In case you haven’t, please click the video below to keep yourself updated.

But things escalated super fast, and we watched in utter disbelief that the nurse who stood up for her patient and for what the law had stipulated was actually arrested on the spot by Detective Jeff Payne – again without any valid reason as to why she should be punished like that.

The thing that bothers me the most, however, is that nobody, not a single soul, not even the supervisors or the other officers in the scene, had lifted a finger to intervene with the handcuffing and the pushing that ensued. They just permitted the situation to escalate like that, and even worse, allowed the nurse to be humiliated and to stay in the heated police car for 20 minutes. Unbelievable.

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“I was being bullied, and nobody was willing to speak up for me,” Alex Wubbels told NBC News. “That is one of the main points of this whole issue.”

Now, this is not a battle between two professions, alright? I am not saying that such abuse of power is a trait amongst the officers in the police force. There is still a balance between policemen and women caught on camera, videos going viral of them doing marvelous deeds at their jobs.

But this incident made me reflect on some important matters that should be given focus on.

1. The patient comes first – always.

She followed her number one oath: and that is to be a patient advocate. First and foremost, we are protectors of life. And I mean, any form of life. Whether you are the worst person on earth, or a boy who has a contagious Ebola virus, or a priest who murdered someone, we are not going to turn our backs on anyone. We find ourselves that we are almost like mothers to our patients, and our concern is sincere (well for the most of us, but I’d like to think that every one of us is choosing that path). Because of what Wubbels did, I could only salute her for a job well done.

2. Real nurses would intend to be in their best form all the time, with or without rolling cameras involved.

She made me believe again in this quote: “Save a life, and you are a hero, save 100 lives, and you are a nurse.” Not only was she made a hero that day, but she made the whole nursing community appear like heroes. The incident is a wake-up call to everyone in the healthcare field, and this is what we should be doing, be like nurse Wubbels!

Not everything is caught on camera, but this is not an excuse for us to slack with our obligations as a nurse: the responsibility to uplift the image of the profession, no matter how much hurt we get. Oh, I’ve seen a few scandalous behaviors as well from some nurses just because no one is watching. So again, in this new era of unlimited information and social media, you can be featured as a good nurse or an evil nurse – anything is possible in this world after all. So, we have to be on our best appearance all the time, complete with make-up and striking hairdo, as we can be featured in a Youtube video anytime, haha!

This is about you as a person, and what you can contribute to the world as a nurse.

Kidding aside, it is always worth our while to do what we are supposed to do. At the end of the day, this is not a matter of who is watching or who is not. This is about you as a person, and what you can contribute to the world as a nurse. This is a day to choose who you want to be. Would you like to be a nurse Wubbels? Or somebody of that exact opposite?

3. I suddenly got fresh eyes with how I look at my workplace policies.

She made me question about my mastery of my workplace policy as well. In all honesty, I have no idea that a warrant is needed to extract blood. A consent is, of course, pretty basic, but in this case, the patient is unable to give one. How many of us have actually mastered our hospital’s policies, page by page? In the first place, we should all be aware of the policies of our institution, but after watching the video, all I can say was: “OMG. I did not know that….”

4. Please be gentle on your nurses.

See what we nurses have to deal with on a daily basis? This is an ADVISORY to everyone, especially to those outside the nursing profession. We are forced to face all kinds of interesting and unprecedented twists, and anything can happen in this job. But please, as much as possible, cooperate with us because 99.9% of the time, we do know what we are doing. Honestly.

5. As a driver, you are now a little bit wiser. Re-educate yourself all the time.

Bet you didn’t know that as a driver in the country when you are unconscious and unable to give consent, nobody has any right to extract your blood for substance testing, correct? Do you even know your rights? Thanks to Nurse Wubbels, everybody now knows that even a simple blood extraction has to have a piece of official paper from the police.

6. Fight for all the right reasons, all the time.

She was left alone. She was intimidated. I can see her fear. No one saved her, and she was in the car for 20 bloody minutes. What the hell are her supervisors doing at that time? It is enough to feel this angry at the poor treatment that she got for sticking to standard protocol. But in the end, she came out as the better person amongst anyone involved.

7. Always remember that all of the working parts of this society are functioning well because we share the same oath with everyone – to protect each other.

Looking back at the incident, both Wubbels and Payne said that they are only following orders. Of course, we have our best opinion as to how the incident should have ended. Why follow a warpath approach when you can just listen and follow the protocol? Nurses and the police force are supposed to have a sacred bond. Together, we are bound by our duty to guard and save our community from harm. But the way I see it, this family was damaged by one single act of callousness. We need to be careful of our actions all the time, as there are always consequences afoot.

8. Gather support if everything fails, you don’t have to be alone.

If in doubt, always ask for your supervisor’s opinion, and involve them as much as possible. Always ask for support, and don’t back down if you know you are right.

9. Dirty Little Secrets, anyone?

Now other sources are saying after investigators have tried to break down the incidences preceding the whole fiasco in the hospital, that the incident has been a result of a high-speed police car chase. William Grey, the patient that Wubbels was protecting, was driving a semi-truck at that time. Footage of the said car chase would show a pickup truck fleeing from the authorities, to which the said vehicle had subsequently slammed itself to the semi-truck that Gray was driving, causing massive burn injuries for both the suspect and Gray.

So here’s the million dollar question: why does the police, who were involved in the car chase, adamant to get a blood sample from Gray when he was just a victim of the consequence? The theory was that the police were scouring for “dirt” on the patient’s system, as it was assumed that they have accidentally hit the truck during the police chase. The speculation that the police were trying to cover their involvement in the incident was brought to light, although such claims were still not confirmed.

Now I can never understand why power can screw up a person’s sensibility. Just because you have the handcuffs and the gun and the badge and the intimidating demeanor, it doesn’t mean that you can force your wishes that are despicably wrong no matter how you see it in every angle.

The nurse, God bless her strong heart, is what made me proud of the profession that I am in. This is the moral fiber that made us nurses! We have the tenacity to stand up for what we think is the absolute right for whatever circumstances that we are in!

Nurse Wubbels was then released without any charges at the end of the drama. The hospital’s media relations manager Suzanne Winchester also released a statement saying, ” the University of Utah Health supports Nurse Wubbels and her decision to focus first and foremost on the care and well-being of her patient. She followed procedures and protocols in this matter and was acting in her patient’s best interest. We have worked with our law enforcement partners on this issue to ensure an appropriate process for moving forward.”

Now my fellow nurses, always remember: if you are in the right, defend it! And when you are overpowered, keep your cool.

Sheena Maireen Saavedra is a registered nurse since 2007. She is working as a general nurse in Ireland since 2016 but was a nurse in the Intensive Care Unit and Coronary Care Unit when she was in the Philippines. As a person who continually challenges herself to expand her skill set, she ventured into different fields of the medical world, which includes working as a Product Performance Analyst and Quality Analyst in Boston Scientifics Inc, a medical company that manufactures Class III implantable devices such as pacemakers, ICDs, and CRTs. In general, she enjoyed being a nurse as it helped her meet all kinds of people – which impacted her life the most as she listened to their stories of triumph and tribulations. The profession has created avenues for her to make a difference to somebody’s life. This inspired her to write materials, guides and stories that served as sources of inspiration and help to the world around her, in particular to her fellow sisters and brothers of the industry.

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