Utah Hospital Steps in After Nurse Is Arrested for Refusing Cop’s Illegal Orders

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On July 26, 2017, nurse Alex Wubbels showed up for her nursing shift at the Utah University Hospital.

What she didn’t know was that she would set a chain of events that haven changed hospital policy forever.

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Throughout a standard shift (which can last up to 12 hours), they have to deal with the needs of multiple patients and multiple doctors — all of whom seem to need something desperately at the exact same time. Their shift is spent running around in their comfiest shoes and doused in an unholy variety of bodily fluids.

At least, that’s what always happens on Grey’s Anatomy. That’s real life, right?

It’s all makeout sessions, all the time, isn’t it? Except when you’re, you know, saving lives.

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Advocating for patients and making sure they receive the best care possible is what makes nurses modern-day superheroes. You should never have to doubt that everyone has your best interests at heart while you’re spending time in a hospital.

The cops showed up to the hospital and tried to force Wubbels into violating hospital procedure. When she refused to comply, things quickly took a turn and she found herself leaving the hospital in a police car. But what actually happened?  

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This may seem like pretty standard procedure. But here’s the thing: the patient was unconscious. Wubbels, the nurse on staff at the time of the officers’ request, printed out an agreement between the hospital and the police force stating that blood could not be drawn unless the patient was under arrest, the patient could give consent, or the officers had a warrant. None of those things were true, so Wubbels refused to draw the blood.

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“I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do,” Wubbels told the officers. “That’s all.” Throughout the exchange, one cop in particular — Detective Jeff Payne — became more and more angry at Wubbels’ noncompliance. Wubbels’ supervisor told the cop (via speakerphone): “Sir, you’re making a huge mistake right now…you’re making a huge mistake, because you’re threatening a nurse—” But the rest of his statement was cut off when Detective Payne snapped.

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Wubbels screamed for someone to help her, but there was nothing anyone could do. She was under arrest for following the hospital’s procedures.

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He placed handcuffs on her, then led her to his squad car and eventually took her away. Away from the patients and doctors who needed her. Simply because she wouldn’t break the rules for him.

Be warned: things get intense pretty quickly. It’s not an easy watch. So, why were the cops trying to get this patient’s blood, anyway?

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But here’s an additional piece of relevant info: the car that hit the patient had been fleeing police at the time. In the event that a police chase occurs, the cops can be made responsible for damage that occurs. By chasing a suspect, many people can be put directly in harm’s way. One theory is that Payne was attempting to get the patient’s blood so that if it contained any illicit substances, the cops could get out of having to pay for any damages. Regardless of their reasoning, Payne’s request was not just against hospital procedure — it was also blatantly against the law. In June 2016, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring drivers to submit a blood test without a warrant is unconstitutional.  

You don’t expect to get roughed up by a police officer while you’re doing your job. Wubbels’ ability to keep cool while Payne tried to intimidate her into breaking the law is truly commendable.

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Margaret Pearce, the chief nursing officer at the hospital, announced the new procedure at a news conference on Monday. She says the new plan was set in motion within hours of Wubbels’ arrest. The new protocol states that police officers will no longer be able to interact directly with the hospital’s care staff. Instead, they will need to check in and speak only with a health supervisor, who will then process their requests. Thanks to this new procedure, nurses like Wubbels will be able to focus solely on the important work of taking care of their patients without worrying that they might end up in a squad car.