The recent news regarding the situation with nurse Alex Wubbles in Salt Lake City, is a grim reminder of the bullying that nurses deal with everyday. Being a patient advocate isn’t easy, yet it’s the premise of why nursing is considered to be “The Most Trusted Profession” for 15 years straight.
I’ve watched this video at least a dozen times, trying to find something that would indicate that Nurse Wubbles had been misguided, or obtrusive to the law in any way. I’ve not been able to find anything but pure professionalism and respect in how she handled this situation. I personally can’t say that I would have been able to maintain my calm demeanor as well as she did. She deserves every ounce of respect that I could ever give her. I hate to even speculate on how I may have reacted to the situation.
How many of these types of situations occur where the nurse isn’t confident enough to stand up for the patients’ rights while being bullied and strong-armed by someone? These situations can result in direct patient harm, legal issues, etc. if not dealt with properly.
The bullying and strong-arm tactics aren’t just coming from the police. In fact most times, it’s coming from direct supervisors, physicians, upper management, families or other entities. Believe it or not, this happens in nursing all too frequently. I bet if you ask any nurse (or healthcare worker) that you know, they can give you specific examples of times when they were bullied in some way that would have compromised patient care or demanded a strong patient advocate.
I recall an incident of a nurse standing up to the administration of the hospital in regards to the care of a patient – and facing repercussions because she was simply doing her job as a nurse and patient advocate.
Scene: It’s the beginning of a 12-hour nightshift in a small community hospital. The unit is both adult and pediatric medical/surgical patients. There is a Charge Nurse, 3 RN’s (including myself, a travel nurse), and 2 CNA’s staffing our unit.
Situation: Charge nurse is informed that the ER has a 9 y/o child that they need to send to our unit. Since we don’t have any pediatric patients on the floor, there isn’t a pediatric nurse on staff for the night. As a traveler, I’m asked to take the patient. I refuse the assignment due to the fact that I do not have pediatric experience. The charge nurse (all the while consulting with the house supervisor) asks another nurse on the unit, This 2nd nurse has undergone initial preceptorship for pediatrics but has not yet completed this preceptorship and not been released to care for these patients on her own, so she also refuses care of said pediatric patient. The third nurse on our unit, like me; has no pediatric experience.
The charge nurse consults with the house supervisor and then later, to the hospital nursing officer (CNO). I’m observing this situation unfold, as I’m receiving report from the previous shift on my assigned patients.
It’s obvious, even with my divided attention that the house supervisor (or CNO) on the other end of the phone is strong-arming the charge nurse on my unit to come up with a solution. It’s apparent from the conversation, that the house supervisor is insisting that the charge nurse or the precepting nurse accept the care of this child and both are refusing due to lack of clinical skills. (The charge nurse in this situation has less than 2 years of nursing experience. This in itself is another issue that deserves attention at another time.)
From my limited involvement in the situation, it’s my understanding that the charge nurse is being given an ultimatum to either take the patient or risk suspension. She continues to refuse. This conversation goes on over a period of at least a half an hour.
Outcome: Another pediatric qualified nurse is called in from home to take the pediatric patient from the ED. At the end of the shift (night shift), administration arrives and the charge nurse is called into the office. I find out on my next shift that the charge nurse was suspended without pay for “insubordination”. Three days later, the charge nurse was re-instated without any further retribution.
On hearing of the initial outcome and suspension of this nurse, I was disheartened and yet highly proud of the charge nurse for standing up for what she felt was in the best interest of her patients. I would never want to be forced to care for a patient that I didn’t feel I could provide safe patient care for…nor would I ever want someone to care for me that didn’t feel qualified.
This nurse took patient advocacy to the point that her own livelihood was threatened. Her pay was in jeopardy. Her job was at risk. This is what we DO as a nurse. This is what it means to be a patient advocate! Sometimes, this is what it means to be able to provide safe patient care.
In the case of Nurse Wubbles, it meant that she might have gone to jail. Fortunately, she was let go without any formal charges. But, she stood there through all of the bullying and was the BEST patient advocate that she could be! She maintained her professionalism and demeanor through it all. Even now in an exclusive interview with KUTV, she maintains extreme professionalism as she stated, “I would like to see the right thing done” when others in the field are calling for the officers immediate termination (or worse). She further calls for the police to participate in “civil discord” stating that, “This is an issue that’s bigger than just me”.
Nurse Alex Wubbles should be commended for being brave and maintaining patient advocacy in the face of such an intense situation with unknown outcomes. She is an excellent Role Model for the Nurse Advocate.
How do you support your fellow nurses and healthcare workers in regards to Patient Advocacy? What can we do as a profession to decrease the bullying and strong-arm measures from superiors in situations like this? What can be done within our profession so that situations like this are not a day-to-day occurrence?