Did you see it? –Utah Nurse Roughed Up, Arrested For Doing Her Job

    Here's the thing -the head nurse at the University of Utah Hospital’s burn unit was professional and restrained when she told a Salt Lake City police detective he wasn’t allowed to draw blood from a badly injured patient.

    They didn’t have a warrant. The patient wasn’t conscious, so he couldn’t give consent. Without that, the detective was barred from collecting blood samples — not just by hospital policy, but by basic constitutional law.

    Still, Detective Jeff Payne insisted that he be let in to take the blood, saying the nurse would be arrested and charged if she refused.

    Nurse Alex Wubbels politely stood her ground. She got her supervisor on the phone so Payne could hear the decision loud and clear. “Sir,” said the supervisor, “you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse.”

    Payne snapped. He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed “help me” and “you’re assaulting me” as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation.

    The explosive July 26 encounter was captured on officers’ body cameras and is now the subject of an internal investigation by the police department, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported. The videos were released by the Tribune, the Deseret News and other local media.

    On top of that, Wubbels was right. The U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly ruled that blood can only be drawn from drivers for probable cause, with a warrant.

    Wubbels, who was not criminally charged, played the footage at a news conference Thursday with her attorney. They called on police to rethink their treatment of hospital workers and said they had not ruled out legal action.

    “I just feel betrayed, I feel angry, I feel a lot of things,” Wubbels said. “And I’m still confused.”

    It all started when a suspect speeding away from police in a pickup truck on a local highway smashed head-on into a truck driver, as local media reported. Medics sedated the truck driver, who was severely burned, and took him to the University of Utah Hospital. He arrived in a comatose state, according to the Deseret News. The suspect died in the crash.

    A neighboring police department sent Payne, a trained police phlebotomist, to collect blood from the patient and check for illicit substances, as the Tribune reported. The goal was reportedly to protect the trucker, who was not suspected of a crime. His lieutenant ordered him to arrest Wubbels if she refused to let him draw a sample, according to the Tribune.A Salt Lake City police detective handcuffed a nurse after she prevented him from collecting blood from an unconscious patient. (Screen grab via Deseret News)

    A 19-minute video from the body camera of a fellow officer shows the bitter argument that unfolded on the floor of the hospital’s burn unit. (Things get especially rough around the 6-minute mark. Video is available here).

    A group of hospital officials, security guards and nurses are seen pacing nervously in the ward. Payne can be seen standing in a doorway, arms folded over his black polo shirt, waiting as hospital officials talk on the phone.

    “So why don’t we just write a search warrant,” the officer wearing the body camera says to Payne.

    “They don’t have PC,” Payne responds, using the abbreviation for probable cause, which police must have to get a warrant for search and seizure. He adds that he plans to arrest the nurse if she doesn’t allow him to draw blood. “I’ve never gone this far,” he says.

    After several minutes, Wubbels shows Payne and the other officer a printout of the hospital’s policy on obtaining blood samples from patients. With her supervisor on speakerphone, she calmly tells them they can’t proceed unless they have a warrant or patient consent, or if the patient is under arrest.

    “The patient can’t consent, he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant, and the patient is not under arrest,” she says. “So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”

    “So I take it without those in place, I’m not going to get blood,” Payne says.

    Wubbels’s supervisor chimes in on the speakerphone. “Why are you blaming the messenger,” he asks Payne.

    “She’s the one that has told me no,” the officer responds.

    “Sir, you’re making a huge mistake because you’re threatening a nurse,” Wubbels’s supervisor says over the phone.

    At that point, Payne seems to lose it.

    He paces toward the nurse and tries to swat the phone out of her hand. “We’re done here,” he yells. He grabs Wubbels by the arms and shoves her through the automatic doors outside the building.

    Wubbels screams. “Help! Help me! Stop! You’re assaulting me! Stop! I’ve done nothing wrong! This is crazy!”

    Payne presses her into a wall, pulls her arms behind her back and handcuffs her. Two hospital officials tell him to stop, that she’s doing her job, but he ignores them.

    “I can’t believe this! What is happening?” Wubbels says through tears as the detective straps her into the front seat of his car.

    Another officer arrives and tells her she should have allowed Payne to collect the samples he asked for. He says she obstructed justice and prevented Payne from doing his job.

    “I’m also obligated to my patients,” she tells the officer. “It’s not up to me.”

    “The law is well-established. And it’s not what we were hearing in the video,” she said. “I don’t know what was driving this situation.”

    Wubbels has worked as a nurse at the hospital since 2009, according to the Tribune. She was previously an Alpine skier who competed under her maiden name in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics.

    As a health-care worker, she said it was her job to keep her patients safe.

    “A blood draw, it just gets thrown around like it’s some simple thing,” she said, according to the Deseret News. “But your blood is your blood. That’s your property.”

    For now, Wubbels is not taking any legal action against police. But she’s not ruling it out.

    “I want to see people do the right thing first and I want to see this be a civil discourse,” she said Thursday, according to the Deseret News. “If that’s not something that’s going to happen and there is refusal to acknowledge the need for growth and the need for re-education, then we will likely be forced to take that type of step. But people need to know that this is out there.”

    So... what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

    SHARE

    37 COMMENTS

    1. As a retired RN (45 yrs) the father of a Critical Care RN and the grandfather of an RN in training, I am proud of Ms. Wubbels. She is the epitome of good nursing care/leadership. The police behavior was unprofessional and unlawful. Talking sense to the detective failed because, “police can never be wrong in their behavior”. Police will never back up and apologize about anything once they engage in a situation. This is how they are trained. To do so would be to admit wrongdoing. This is part of the police “culture”. I hope she sues and gets big bucks, goes on a speaking tour, and speaks out publicly in the media. By the way , the detectives actions were “UNCONSTITUTIONAL”… “a good cop is a mild sociopath and violent”…M. Furman

    2. KR/ APRN : I’ve been in medicine for 32 years; first: working out of the ER / ambulance service to my current position as a mid-level provider. I’ve experienced / witnessed a lot of BAD behavior over that time, and ‘this’ bad behavior by this officer is UNACCEPTABLE on EVERY LEVEL ! HE jeopardized the health & safety of many other people that day; it’s a domino effect and goes way beyond just the patients in the ER that day. There didn’t seem to be anything about that blood draw that couldn’t have waited until a calmer conversation, calmer mindset took place. His “power tripping” ego got in the way.
      She did the right thing & I would stand beside her in solidarity !

      • I just said yesterday this will have the ripple effect for a long time (what you called domino effect). Because this is all over the news and social media the ripples are going worldwide. It can change the mindset of many people, some who will not even have the whole story.

    3. To M/RN -as an ER nurse the situations you describe all have “probable cause” and would fall under the law and therefore be acceptable reasons to draw blood.

      I am concerned that for 19 minutes Ms. Wubbels’ patients didn’t have her attention and care during this outrage and the other staff were also distracted as well. This is a secondary harm of the officer’s actions that isn’t being discussed

      • Good point, I guess I just assumed he was being attended to by other staff. But even then with all the uproar they would be distracted. If his family thinks that thru they end up suing the hospital as the patient did expire as a result of his injuries, they could claim substandard care.

    4. I think she did an admirable job of keeping her cool and advocating for her patient’s rights. What was done to her is just plain wrong. I have come close to it once in the 22+ years I was nursing, but managed to convince my police officer that he needed to let the FOB stay for the sake of the patient’s well being and the well being of her unborn child. I personally think she should sue the officer and his superior that gave him the order to arrest her if she didn’t allow him to break the law.

    5. I am a retired Nurse that worked hard for 46 years and I have never seen any public servant treat another public servant like that in my life!
      She needs to sue him and the hospital for not protecting her, what was that supervisor thinking? She should have come directly to the rescue of her staff nurse and had security call 911 to have the officer arrested right then and there. Police officers are not above being arrested, as a Jail Nurse I have had them admitted to our facility plenty of times for domestic abuse and looking for all staff to give them favors. I hope when he goes before a Judge, and I hope it’s a female Judge at that, that she throws the book at him and he looses his job for assaulting an innocent Nurse doing her job. This person doesn’t even deserve to be called Officer ever again. I worked with the Police in the ER, Deputies in the Jail and love them dearly but they know the bad ones too so I am not picking on the men who work for the Law I love and respect them but some of them need to go,

    6. Where was the supervisor or hospital administrator?
      They needed to be there and I agree that hospital security should have protected her as well
      This is simply inexcusable. Ms wubble should
      Take all legal actions available to her including
      Having a restraining order against both the
      Officers. Nursing is difficult enough
      Without such conduct on the part of the
      Police. They are supposed to be there
      For us. And most of the time they are,
      But that conduct just cannot be tolerated

      • This behavior from the police is WHOLLY UNACCEPTABLE. It is NOT obstructing justice to demand what the LAW DOES. She REALLY SHOULD FILE.

    7. I truly love that no one is defending these police. I have been an RN since 1969. Still active. Still nursing. I have always been quite a patient advocate. The nurse here gets kudos for being just that, in spades. This officer just was not about to be told “NO” by anyone. He would not listen because HIS WILL was being thwarted, and all listening stopped at that point. Nothing would have deterred him. Other officers should have, but if he was “over”them status-wise, they could not have, per their own policies I guess. This nurse is a hero for all of us in our most vulnerable states. She deserves a medal from the President. This could have been any on of us. The man was a victim, not a criminal. They may have done drug testing automatically in the ER before he went to the burn unit…many times that is automatic in MVA’s (motor vehicle accidents) for the patient’s defenses for insurance purposes. But that does not mean the police could access it without “cause.”

    8. As ER nurses/staff we ALL know we draw blood from unconscious patients!!!!! Hello?? Overdoses, severe ETOH, the list goes on.

      I’m not condoning Officer Payne’s behavior. Never is it okay to become physical to a healthcare worker. It hasn’t been reported if Officer Payne had a reputation for being difficult/jerk–he obviously had a “loose it” moment and sadly it has cost him his job and reputation.

      However, in the ER it’s VERY important we work TOGETHER. Police/paramedics/social workers/case management and so many outside groups/persons play an important role in helping to do the greater good for ALL.

      We in the ER are unique to any other department in the hospital. We’re “first responders”. We must make snap minute decisions and choices and those decisions are not always “to the book/rules”. Simple example: using a device or piece of equipment for “unlabeled” use or triaging and treating in the triage room.

      I am a RN, who was fortunate to have been educated and trained in the days when patient care and skills were of the greater importance. My days in nursing school were mostly spent in the hospital. Nurse Wubbles, as it was reported has been a nurse for 9 years. I am glad she is knowledgeable of “policies”.
      Sometimes we need to think outside of the box in the ER.

      Clinical experience should have dictated that the severity of the burns to the patient, had a high probability to cause DEATH. To allow Officer Payne to complete his report/investigation via a simple blood draw would have done “NO HARM”.

      I never take the time to write comments. This particular incidence has fueled my desire to bring awareness to the training of staff in our ER/ED departments. Knowing “policy” is OF COURSE necessary.
      However, having the ability to “think”using evidence based medicine in a multi-faceted department is of GREATER importance and a necessity.

      • This could have been solved easily. If the officer had placed the patient under arrest for fleeing the police (as that is what started this all), then she could have followed policy and they would have gotten the blood. Or where was the ER physician, he could have easily order a blood draw as part of the assessment to plan care for the patient, then they could have gotten the blood draw and been done. I know there are situations as you described but there are usually “work arounds” like the ones I suggested. The issue here is more that there was not problem solving conversation, just orders and then physical abuse. I was a bit shocked no one thought of any “work arounds”.

        • Lora-the patient was not the one fleeing the police-they were chasing someone else and the ensuing chase caused an accident involving the patient in his truck-he was a bystander who got injured. Makes me wonder why this cop was so eager to find this bystander might have been under the influence so as to relieve the police of responsibility for his injuries?? These dangerous car chases the police engage in have often resulted in bystanders/innocent civilians being injured.

    9. Our problem in this country is not following the law. The officer was wrong and should be held responsible as should his supervisor who told him to arrest the nurse. She was assaulted and held without cause. File the lawsuit.

    10. I agree that charges should be filed. This officer needs a wake up call. I don’t understand how he can come into the hospital snd give orders. I think security was fearful he would shoot someone because I think he appeared a loose cannon.

    11. As a nurse and mother of a police officer, I feel that this is inexcusable for the officer that pursued this in the manner in which he did.. He should have let another officer proceed with calm and perhaps this would not have escalated the way it did. There are rules that need to be followed.

    12. Welcome to the white man’s world, this is assault, and the officer should be terminated for the nurse was only following hospital policy. No one should be handled like this, I endure racial treatment everyday in this small town where I stay in Athens, Alabama.No protection from hospital security! Proud of you nurse!

    13. This is clearly the police officer’s abuse of power. This happens daily but I had never seen this with a nurse and police officer. Thank you, RN Alex Wubbels, you my hero for standing up for your patient. God bless and I hope this serves as a lesson to all that abuse of power should never happen. Sue to protect others, please. Sadly, had this happened to a minority nurse it perhaps would not had as much as an impact so God knows who he picks to bring messages of injustice to the light. Sorry, this happened to you but many blessings for doing what is right.

    14. This officer should be fired, no questions asked. He stepped over the line, he is one on these that if you give him a gun and badge, he owns the world. We do not need officers like this on any police force. This would have be one of Hitler’s best men! Police and medical personal should have a close working relationship.

    15. Similar situation happened at University of Chicago in 2009. Police officer had been a cop for ten years. He was terminated. This is the type of justice the nurse needs in this situation. It is just the usual red tape that is holding it up. I am very proud of the nurse for standing her ground!!

    16. Shame on that police officer for not knowing the law. Shame on the Hospital Administration and Security officers for not standing (physically) beside this nurse to protect her. So very proud of Ms. Wubbles for standing up for her patient’s rights. If we do not advocate for our patients who will. Thoughts and Prayers for everyone involved that a lesson is learned and education is provided for everyone on Patient’s Rights.

      • Theresa, my feelings exactly. Where was the administrator? Why didn’t the DON step in and say I’m taking over for nurse Wubbles and I say “No you will not draw blood. Cuff me if you must but leave her alone.”
        Administration was nowhere and she stated several times ” Can someone stay with me, I don’t feel safe right now”.
        Don’t leave her out to dry.

        • I didn’t see what time of day it happened but I assumed it was hours when the administrators were not in house. If they were and they didn’t run right down there then that is horrible and they should be held accountable. If it was after hours they should have hopped in their car and got there asap!

      • I agree Theresa security should. Have been closer to her she stated several times she did not feel safe. Requesting someone stand by her.

    17. please take legal action. the officers were also recorded saying that in the future they would bring the transients and homeless to that hospital and the paying patients to other hospitals in the city. a conversation means to me that is a behaviour the police have used institutionally to punish those they find “uncooperative “.

    18. I think the officer should be on unpaid suspension during the investigation, not paid desk duty. I think he should be fired and ordered to anger management therapy. He lost his cool, man-handled the nurse, used unnecessary force even if she had done something wrong. Putting her in his car was out of line, if she was being arrested and he was that angry he should have had her transported by another officer. If I were her I would have been terrified he would not take me to jail but take me somewhere to continue his physical abuse! I was terrified just watching the video! I am also disgusted that the officer who came to talk to her, supposedly to calm down the situation, was justifying the officer who cuffed her, or so it seemed to me. I think she should sue, and I never say that, but sue and insist he is ordered to therapy. If she wins money then donate it to a charity, like one that supports families of slain officers, or victims of crime, or such. So sue not to get a payday but to make a point! She also is likely to need therapy, she may suffer from PTSD after this event! If this officer is not fired and I were an officer in that town I would be afraid to get injured and be taken to any hospital. Yes the staff would provide care but it would be tempting to just give reasonable care, no heroics or extras. I think most of us would not hold that type of grudge but it sure would be hard! Side note that officer was also an EMT and got fired from that job for remarks he made. At the press conference you could really see the police department reps sweating as the questions came. They are really trying to do damage control but you could tell they are not going to support this officer’s behavior at all!

    19. I am an ER PA in North Carolina and we work closely with the police. The detective in this case went beyond the bounds of law as well as courtesy. When that happens we have an obligation to see justice served, police or not. Ms. Wubbels was professional and respectful throughout the entire encounter. She did not deserve to be treated like this by a rogue police officer and he deserves to be charged with assault. In addition, the hospital security and/or other police officers present should have intervened. Wrong is wrong.

    20. Never been prouder of a fellow nursing colleague! Nurses’ first priority is to care for patients. The non-responsive patient is especially vulnerable without nurses! ALL NURSES SHOULD BE SUPPORTING HER EFFORTS!

      • I agree 100% except all people should be supporting her efforts. She is a hero, we don’t see much of that conviction very much these days.

    21. As a nurse, I am outraged that these two officers have not been fired for abusing this nurse who is obligated to follow hospital policy. She should take legal action.

      • I agree the officers clearly stepped beyond their limits. Imagine if they treat a working professional like this what do we expect for the general public, minorities, non-English speaking people. What a mess these officers need to be fired before they kill or beat anyone that even dares to resist them. Shame on that police department.

    LEAVE A REPLY

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here