I have a new hero whom I've never met. Her name is Alex Wubbels, a burn unit charge nurse from the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City. For those who may have missed the videos that went viral and incited outrage in nurses around the globe, Ms. Wubbels was arrested by a police officer for upholding hospital policy and being a patient advocate. Footage showed her calmly and professionally explaining the conditions necessary for a blood draw to the officer while a hospital administrator provided backup via the speaker on her cell phone. The officer responded by roughly handcuffing her and pushing her out the door and into his car. Ultimately, all charges were dropped and cooler heads prevailed, but the repercussions were significant.
We know that being a patient advocate is a nursing responsibility that's deeply rooted in our professional ethics. Alex is a role model. Her actions demonstrated that effective advocacy is a heavy lift and, like a career in nursing, isn't for the faint of heart. Advocacy demands courage to stand for doing what's right, especially when an authority figure or bully is involved. It calls for an accurate knowledge of applicable standards, policies, and laws, and the ability to invoke resources that can facilitate a successful and ethical resolution. And it's best leveraged with a professional demeanor, an interpersonal skill that Alex displayed exceptionally well. Alex set that bar high.
A professional demeanor during adversity requires true character strength and the ability to rein in baser impulses to speak or act badly when feeling provoked. If behavior degenerates in these moments, it can turn the tide from effectively solving the issue at hand into a bigger problem that can be much harder to manage.
One of the many factors that inspired Alex's overwhelming public support was her professionalism under pressure. It's easy to back someone whose conduct is principled and honorable. Her performance that day is both a lesson and a reminder for all of us. To that end, I'll share the advice I impart to my team at work whenever the need arises: Put the patient first, do your best to solve the problem or system issue, and always remain above reproach.
Until next time,
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2017 Vice President: Emergency & Trauma Services Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.