The news reports and videos showing the treatment that one of our colleagues, an Emergency Room nurse in Utah, experienced in an encounter with law enforcement are deeply distressing. Alex Wubbels, RN protected the rights of a patient in an ethical, professional, and brave manner throughout this incident. The ANA and Utah Nurses Association have made strong statements in support of Ms. Wubbels. We support these statements and stand with our fellow nursing organizations that nurses should be treated with respect and be secure in caring for their patients.
Ms. Wubbels’ actions embodied one of our most important roles as a nurse: being a patient advocate. In a threatening situation and in the face of intimidation, she stood strong. This is nothing less than heroic and something to honor. She demonstrated, through her actions, our code of ethics and why nurses continue to be the most trusted profession in America.
How can we as individuals help her brave actions spark positive change that will help prevent similar events? We can use this as an opportunity to begin conversations that reinforce existing relationships and build new ones. This event is, at its root, an issue of civility. It is also not an isolated incident. To fully do our duty as nurses we have an obligation to neither be silent in the face of incivility nor acquiesce to its presence and practice. Equally our duty calls for us to teach. It is what we do!
We call upon all psychiatric-mental health nurses to critically examine the policies and procedures that govern interactions with law enforcement. We also ask that you meet with your local law enforcement officials to discuss your procedures and the arrest of Ms. Wubbels. Through open and honest dialogue we can forge relationships based on trust, respect for each other, and a desire to make our society stronger.
You can see our letter to the ANA and Utah Nurses Association here.