Nurse arrested for following procedure


Salt Lake City Police Department

Nurse Wubbels being detained for following University Hospital procedure

In the age of Black Lives Matter and police brutality demonstrations, it is only natural that a recent incident in Salt Lake City would raise some eyebrows.

Following a fiery car crash, Detective Jeff Payne requested that Nurse Alex Wubbels of University Hospital hand over a blood sample from the crash’s unconscious victim. Wubbels refused, citing hospital policy as her reasoning. Payne was unhappy with this response, opting to place her under arrest without cause.

The release of detective Payne’s body camera footage revealed his brutal means of arresting Wubbels back in July. The video left a sour taste in the mouths of many, including Dr. Steve Kleeman, Good Samaritan Hospital’s Director of Urogynecology.

“There are systems in place,” said Kleeman. “I was surprised there was a breakdown of that system and that nobody stepped in [to stop Detective Payne].”

Kleeman went on to say that the situation was no doubt a tough one for the officers, however, who seek to determine the blood alcohol content of patients. Unless they get it quickly, that evidence will be lost.

Hamilton County Police Department’s Sergeant Steven Sabers agreed with Kleeman.

“Having dealt with situations in my career where I have needed to get blood drawn from an unconscious suspect, I thought what happened was ridiculous,” Sabers said. “Time was on the officer’s side here, and he could have taken the time to get a warrant and proceed from there.”

I think this was an isolated incident about somebody emotionally involved, and a bad choice was made.

— Elder Nurse Jenny Boles

Elder’s own Nurse Jenny Boles weighed in on the issue, pointing out that policies vary depending on the state. “My first question was, ‘what is the Nurse Practice Act in that state?”

In Ohio, there is a law in place known as the Implied Consent Law. This law allows for the drawing of blood from unconscious patients without warrant. The law in Salt Lake City, Utah, however, is much different. The procedure in Utah calls for a warrant or the patient’s direct verbal consent. Otherwise, no blood can be drawn.

Although Wubbels was indeed following correct hospital procedure, Nurse Boles asserts that even if Wubbels had been in the wrong, there is a hierarchy to follow. “It should have been brought to a supervisor before [Payne got] physical.”

One question that remains on the minds of many is whether this was an isolated incident or if there is a larger issue at hand. Fortunately, Kleeman, Sabers, and Boles are all in agreement that this seems to have been a rare occurrence.

“In my career, nurses and doctors have always been willing to help with whatever we need,” Sabers shared. “They are very well educated in the practices and policies of local police departments.”

Boles echoed Sabers’ sentiment, stating that during her time working at the University of Cincinnati’s Emergency Room, doctors and officers always worked in a collaborative manner.

“I think this was an isolated incident about somebody emotionally involved, and a bad choice was made,” said Boles. Given the severity of the car crash, she believes the officer failed to emotionally disconnect himself from the scene before pursuing the victim.

Kleeman further elaborated, stating that the most common issues hospitals face in regard to procedure involve either Jehovah’s Witnesses refusing treatment or mothers in labor refusing C-sections. “We often have to go to court [in these cases].” Conflicts with officers, however, occur rarely if ever.

Wubbels was released uncharged after only twenty minutes of being detained. While Wubbel’s temporary arrest may have been a horrific exploitation of power, most seem to be in consensus that the relationship between civil servants remains strong, but there is always room for improvement.

“All relationships could be improved,” said Sabers. “One of the things we have done at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is to start having the nurses that we employ at the Justice Center draw blood from our suspects. That way we, as an agency, have better control over what happens and how the blood is processed.”

“The relationship is not bad, but we will learn from [this incident],” Kleeman added.

Wubbels is in talks with Salt Lake City officials about how they can improve moving forward. Payne is currently on an administrative leave pending review