Protecting Your Patient

Protecting Your Patient: What We Learned From Nurse Alex Wubbels

Protecting Your Patient

Protecting Your Patient: What We Learned From Nurse Alex Wubbels

It’s a video that swept across the social media pages of nurses and non-nurses alike: a Utah nurse roughly put in handcuffs and arrested for refusing to follow the orders of a police officer. And not only is the story sparking outrage nationwide, it’s also highlighting just how important it is for nurses to know both the law and their hospital policies.

The issue began in July, after a driver fleeing from police crossed into oncoming traffic and caused a major collision. The driver was killed in the crash, but fortunately, the other man (a truck driver and part-time police officer) managed to survive. He was rushed to the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City, where Nurse Alex Wubbels (a former Olympic skier) was assigned to him.

This, however, was when Alex’s situation took a turn for the frightening.  John Payne, a police detective, arrived at the hospital shortly after the injured driver, requesting a sample of the motorist’s blood to be analyzed at the crime lab. But the patient was still unconscious and couldn’t give his consent. Payne ordered that the sample be drawn regardless, and that’s where Nurse Wubbels drew the line.

“The patient can’t consent,” she says to a person on the phone in the released video of the incident. “And he’s told me repeatedly that he doesn’t have a warrant. And the patient is not under arrest. So I’m just trying to do what I’m supposed to do, that’s all.”

Soon after in the video, Payne goes on the offensive, accusing Wubbels of interfering with an investigation. She repeatedly attempts to explain the hospital policy to him, but his responses grow more and more agitated.

“I either go away with blood in vials or body in tow,” Payne can be heard saying.

Wubbels, crying for help, was put in handcuffs and led away—an action that Wubbels and her attorney now say amounts to assault. While she was soon released and allowed to physically recover, Wubbels doesn’t consider the matter resolved. She tells the Salt Lake City Tribune that she’s “heard anecdotally of other health care workers being bullied and harassed by police, and that these videos prove that there is a problem.”

“I can’t sit on this video and not attempt to speak out both to re-educate and inform,” she said. Police agencies “need to be having conversations about what is appropriate intervention.”

The incident is currently being investigated, though the Salt Lake City Mayor’s office has already issued an apology, but what happened to Nurse Wubbels shines a spotlight on the need for all nurses to be aware of their hospital policies.

“If you choose not to follow hospital policy — say, for instance, you drew the labs on the request of the detective, without a court order or patient consent, and on a patient that wasn’t under arrest — you open yourself up to many potential legal ramifications,” writes Dr. Jennifer Mensik for Nurse.com.

She also points out that Alex Wubbels stood up—not just for hospital legal policy—but also for the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. Two parts of the code, she points out, were at stake. Provision 1.4, which requires all patient decisions to be voluntary , and Provision 2.1, which says that a nurse’s primary commitment is to her patient.

“The nurse stood up valiantly for her patient when the patient could not speak for himself,” concludes Mensik. 

While we always hope that issues like those Nurse Wubbels faced never happen again, it’s still always best to be prepared to face them. So familiarize yourself with the American Nurses Code of Ethics, and your hospital or clinic’s policies, and never hesitate to reach out to your superiors or your workplace’s legal department if you ever question something you’ve been asked to do.

For more information on beginning your career as a nurse or medical assistant, contact Unitek College today.

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane Harvey

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane Harvey

Nurses Face Off Against Hurricane HarveyIt’s been days since Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Texas, and he’s still causing trouble. The storm has claimed two lives so far and continues to dump inches of water into east Texas—sending the residents of flood-prone cities like Houston scrambling for higher ground.

But evacuation isn’t a simple task, and not everyone is able to do so without a significant amount of help… residents of this nursing home, for example, were stranded in waist deep water until help could arrive. As Harvey approached, many hospitals began closing their doors—sending their patients north to Dallas.

“We want to make sure that people are located in a facility where they can receive care without the impact of a hurricane,” explained Corpus Christi Fire Chief Robert Rocha.

The federal government made emergency health care a top priority as well, with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price declaring a public health emergency—a decision that relaxes many Medicare and Medicaid requirements to make it easier for health centers to treat the wave of new patients.

But even with the federal help, treating the sudden influx of patients requires more than just paperwork assistance. It requires boots on the grounds and scrubs in the halls. In other words, fighting Hurricane Harvey requires an army of nurses, and nurses from all over are answering the cry for help.

A team of thirteen from the Texarkana region boarded a plane and headed for the coast, landing ahead of Harvey and immediately going to work easing the burden on Texas hospitals.

“We’ll help take care of those patients and provide the care. We’ll provide the hospital a little relief as they’re taking in these added patients,” explained Micah Johnson, CHRISTUS St. Michael-Atlanta Director of Nursing.

Other nurses, like NICU nurse Michelle Smith, helped fly critically ill and premature babies to Dallas, as doctors felt the risk was too great for the young patients should their hospitals lose power. Smith, who did similar work following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, took the role very seriously.

“I saw one young mom saying goodbye to a baby she loves very much,” Smith said. “We don’t take lightly the responsibility of caring for their children.”

Other nurses stayed behind to assist patients who couldn’t be moved, including four mothers who gave birth in Corpus Christi during the storm… one of the babies was even named “Harvey”.

And as the storm fades, more nurses continue to volunteer to help, using services such as the RN Response Network to find a need. (If you’re interested in helping out, you can fill out their volunteer form here.)

Thanks to all of the brave men and women in scrubs who stepped up to the challenge, proving once again that when the skies get darkest, that’s their opportunity to shine the brightest.

If you’d like to explore your potential future as a nurse or medical assistant, Unitek College can help make that dream a reality. Contact us here for more information.

Your Patients’ Top 10 Worst Fears About Hospitals (And How You Can Help)

As a nurse, you probably see your hospital or clinic as a place of safety and familiarity. It’s where you spend much of your day, it’s your place of work, and you probably know every corner. But for a significant number of patients, a hospital can be a terrifying place… and they can’t always explain why. Known as nosocomephobia, the fear of hospitals isn’t just inconvenient for hospital workers, it could also prevent people from seeking necessary medical attention.

So we’ve put together a list of ten reasons your patients might be scared to walk inside your hospital, plus a few tips on how you can help them get past their fears.

  1. Bad Memories – One reason a patient might fear a hospital is because of bad memories associated with the building. For example, losing a loved one, or a particularly traumatic visit in years past. The brain then conditions the same negative response over and over for every visit… even the ones that aren’t necessarily bad.
  2. Germs – Your patient’s fear might not stem from what they can see inside the hospital, but what they can’t Mysophobia (the fear of germs) can manifest itself in several ways: compulsory washing of hands, excessive soap use, avoidance of physical contact, etc. It can also make a person fear any place they associate with germs, such as a hospital.
  3. The Media – The media gets blamed for a lot of things these days, but sometimes, there’s some truth behind it. In entertainment media such as movies and TV shows, hospitals are often at the center of negative events—death, disease outbreak, even terrorist attacks. In the news media, hospitals are easy targets when it comes to scaring viewers into watching the 11 o’clock newscast—doctor errors, superbugs, and similar stories make for great, dynamic headlines. But when the focus is primarily on the negative, it gets very difficult for some people to remember that a lot of positive things happen inside hospitals as well.
  4. Death – If you spend any significant amount of time in a hospital, chances are you’ll encounter death in some way or another, and it’s completely understandable that people struggle with that. Being that close to death can also make you face your own mortality. If you have a particular fear of death (thanatophobia), a hospital will not be one of your favorite places.
  5. Small Spaces – Hospital rooms aren’t known for being spacious, and some places inside a hospital (an MRI machine, elevators, examinations rooms for example) get even tighter.
  6. Needles and Blood – Hemophobia (fear of blood) and trypanophobia (fear of needles) are both very real things, and hospitals are filled with the subjects of both. If a patient is uncomfortable with either, a hospital is the last place they’ll want to be.
  7. The Hospital “Look” – White Coat Syndrome (hypertension) is just one way that patients can respond negatively just by looking at a hospital, clinic, or doctor. For these patients, simply being around any of these three things can cause a spike in blood pressure, which can increase the feeling of anxiety. Hospital smells, schedules, lights, and even hospital gowns can help contribute to the general feeling of unease.
  8. The Billing Department – Navigating medical bills and insurance coverage can be a mine field, and sometimes, it’s simpler just to avoid the scenario altogether. Whether it’s distrust of the billing office, or just a dwindling bank account, money can often be a fear factor.
  9. Preexisting Anxiety – Over 40 million Americans deal with some form of anxiety. In other words, they didn’t just start worrying when they walked inside… that stress already existed, and it’s now being applied to your workplace.
  10. You – It’s not fun to consider, but the thing patients might fear most is you, the person holding the stethoscope or needle or IV bag. Iatraphobia is the fear of doctors, which can sometimes expand to include nurses as well. David Yusko of the University of Pennsylvania found that patients will “wring their hands; they’ll cross their arms or legs; or they’ll try to turn their body away from the image or hide their eyes from it. They’ll talk about their heart beating quickly, their hands getting sweaty and feeling dizzy or nauseous.”

So with such a broad list of reasons why a person might fear the hospital, how can you help them?

Obviously the best course of action is for patients to seek treatment or medication themselves from a licensed therapist or psychiatrist. But as a nurse, there are things you can do to help ease the anxiety. Show confidence in your own abilities and decisions—the more confident you appear, the more confident patients will be in you. Some patients find that being better educated on their treatment or diagnosis helps with anxiety. Others appreciate any opportunity to feel like they have control over their situation, so find chances to let them make choices… even if it’s just for the little things.

And finally, remind your patients that the fear is nothing to be ashamed of. They shouldn’t feel like they have to hide it or run from it or force it down. Mindful.org suggests that instead, we acknowledge that the fear or anxiety exists, we let it exist, then we move on to what’s in front of us.  Trying to force your way past fear won’t just be ineffectual… it could also make the problem worse.

We all have our individual challenges to overcome. Fortunately for those whose challenge is a fear of hospitals, they have you to help them through it.

For more information on beginning your career in health care, contact Unitek College today for information on our many available nursing and medical assistant programs.