Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained

Posted by Beth Hawkes in SERIOUS Nurse Problems, Speak Out Speak Up // 1 Comment

nurse arrest explained

An ED nurse assaulted by police, handcuffed and screaming in fear is arrested? How can this possibly be explained?

By now everyone has seen the viral video of Salt Lake City, UT showing a Salt Lake detective arresting nurse Alex Wubbels for refusing to allow a blood draw on her unconscious patient.

Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained
Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained: The Collision
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, on July 26, a Utah Highway Patrol officer was pursuing a pickup truck near Sardine Canyon on ST 89/91.

The pickup truck crashed head-on into a semi-truck, driven by Marcos Torres, 26 years old. Marcos died on the scene in the ensuing explosion.

The driver of the semi-truck, William Gray, survived and was transported to University Hospital in Salt Lake City for treatment.

Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained: The Blood Draw
nurse arrest explainedSalt Lake Detective Jeff Payne was dispatched to the ED to draw a blood sample. Blood samples are obtained when an accident results in death to establish if the individuals were impaired. Standard procedure. Salt Lake Detective Jeff Payne is a trained phlebotomist and would have drawn the sample.

In an agreement between the police department and the hospital, blood may be drawn if:

The patient gives consent or
There is a warrant for arrest
However, in this case, patient William Gray was unconscious. Read an article here from the Washington Post on the Supreme Court ruling that requires consent for blood draws. Blood tests are considered to be invasive and require consent. To protect individual’s Fourth Amendment rights, obtaining blood requires a warrant and cannot be done without following proper channels. This is similar to needing a search warrant to go into someone’s home to collect evidence.

In the video, Wubbels calmly reiterates the policy to the detective again. She explains to detective Payne that the unconscious patient has not given consent and that there is no warrant.

Detective Payne’s point of view was that Nurse Alex Wubbels was interfering with the investigation by not allowing him to draw blood from Gray.

At one point, Detective Payne appears to snap and forcibly arrests Wubbels. A disturbing bodycam video of the incident shows the arrest. Alex is led screaming and handcuffed to a vehicle for arrest. Wubbels was later released without charges.

Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained: Apologies Roll In
In a statement, Chief Mike Brown states “This is an ever evolving situation, and we will do what is necessary to fully investigate the issue, uphold the integrity of the Salt Lake City Police Department, and strengthen the trust with our community”.

“What I saw is completely unacceptable to the values of my administration and of the values of the Salt Lake City Police Department,” Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski. “I extend a personal apology to Ms. Wubbels for what she has been through for simply doing her job.”

On September 1,2017: University Hospital of Utah CEO Gordon Crabtree, COO Dan Lundergran, and CNO Margaret Pearce released a statement supporting Nurse Alex Wubbel.

Utah Nurse Alex Wubbel’s Arrest Explained: Alex Responds
Ever professional, Alex Wubbels graciously responded to apologies received from the Chief of Police and Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski

“This morning, I received a call from the Mayor of Salt Lake City and the Chief of Police. They both offered me personal apologies, which I felt were sincere. I have accepted those apologies, and I look forward to working with both of them to help promote further civil dialogue and education. The common goal of all public service professionals should be to provide the best care to our fellow citizens. The outpouring of support has been beyond what I could have imagined. Since the incident, the City has taken this matter seriously, and I believe that positive change will occur.”

It seems the official apologies and support just recently coming in are a bit late considering this incident occurred on July 26, 2017.

Nurses are urged to follow the chain of command, which Alex did, but it seemed that in the moment, Alex Wubbel was on her own without actionable support. Alex Wubbels felt betrayed and angry, understandably so.

I believe this is a one-off. Police officers and nurses are historically brothers and sisters. This looks like an example of a single officer losing his temper and snapping. A single officer in dire need of anger management training.

The number of nurses coming together to rally behind Alex Wubbles is inspiring. We have so much strength together. Imagine what we can accomplish in all arenas moving forward. It is notable that several nursing organizations have spoken out over the treatment of Alex Wubbels.

“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.

It is only right that the ANA should stand behind Alex- and it is hoped the ANA will continue to speak out loudly on all important issues, such as nurse-patient ratios.

Sign this petition going to the Governor of Utah, the SLC Police Chief, and Orrin Hatch, Senator of Utah, to support Alex Wubbels.

You can also leave a comment for the Salt Lake City Police department on their Facebook page.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth
Author “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job..and your next!”

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