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Nurse Arrest Video Puts Workplace Violence in Focus

News  |  By Jennifer Thew RN  
   September 05, 2017

The arrest of a University of Utah Hospital nurse is the latest in long list of violent incidents against nurses. 

The viral video of a police officer roughing up and arresting a University of Utah Hospital nurse has thrust the concept of nursing workplace safety into the public spotlight.

When a Salt Lake City police officer demanded registered nurse Alex Wubbels draw blood on an unconscious burn unit patient, she refused citing hospital policy that stated blood could only be taken if the patient consented, was under arrest, or there was a warrant issued for the blood draw.

Despite calmly explaining the policy to the officer, Wubbels was grabbed, handcuffed, and forced to walk to a squad car where she was left inside for 20 minutes until she was released with no charges. The incident occured July 26. The video was released last week.

On Monday, the interim CEO of University Hospital announced that the hospital had already changed its policy so nurses would not have to interact with police in similar situations.

"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 American Nurses Association President Pam Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, in a news release.

This is not the first time a nurse has been bullied or assaulted at work:

  • In 2009, Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center RN Lisa Hofstra was handcuffed in the ED by a Chicago police officer after she refused to draw blood until the driver of a car was admitted as a patient. The officer can be seen on video forcing Hofstra to sit in a police car for 45 minutes until the blood was obtained. Hofstra eventually settled a lawsuit against the officer for $78,000.
  • On May 13, two nurses at Delnor Hospital in Geneva, Illinois were taken hostage by an inmate who was a patient at the facility. The inmate was left unshackled by a sheriff’s officer after he used the restroom, escaped, and took two nurses hostage. One of the nurses was raped and held hostage for three hours until the SWAT team killed the inmate. A lawsuit was filed against the Kane County Sheriff's Office, corrections Officer Shawn Loomis and APEX3 security on June 1.
  • On June 14, RN Elise Wilson, was repeatedly stabbed in the arm and neck by a patient at Harrington Hospital in Southbridge, Massachusetts. On July 19, Senate Bill 1374—known as Elise’s Law—passed the Joint Committee of Public Safety and Homeland Security and has been referred to the Ways and Means Committee. The act requires healthcare employers develop and implement programs to prevent workplace violence.

A 2015 American Nurses Association survey of 3,765 RNs found nearly 25% of respondents had been physically assaulted while at work by a patient or a patient’s family member. Up to 50% had been bullied in some manner, either by a peer or a person in a higher level of authority.  

Jennifer Thew, RN, is the senior nursing editor at HealthLeaders.

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