It could have been you. It could have been your shift. It could have been your department. It could have been your license on the line. And if it were you…what would you do? Would you stand firm in your convictions? Would you hold your ground? Would you support the patient on the stretcher who – in that very moment – is at the mercy of whatever you might allow?
It could have been you. And not just a Caucasian female version of you: but each and every race and religion and gender and color and creed. It could have been you in a rural community hospital. It could have been you in a level-one trauma center. It could have been you on a slow Sunday morning or amid the heat of a busy weekend streak. It could have been you caught up in a moment, dealing with a scenario that forced you to remain cool. It could have been you with the backup of your colleagues. Or it could have been you – somehow – all alone. What would you do when your ethics are questioned? How would you react when your patient is on the line? Because Alex Wubbels is all of us: and admittedly, she composed herself better than many of us could or would or, arguably, should. Alex Wubbels used policy and professionalism to protect her patient and her practice, and was granted handcuffs in return. As nurses, we go hand-in-hand with our brothers and sisters in blue: yet the law enforcement officer chose cuff-to-wrist instead. I will not speak of that officer’s name, the one who is currently enjoying a paid vacation while a “formal investigation” is conducted: but he, who wielded his authority in the form of abuse – he respects not us in white, nor represents those in blue.
Justice for Nurse Wubbels is justice for all of us: for a profession that bends to the breaking point day after day; for a cohort who flexes on issues shift after shift; yet somehow manages to come away unscathed. Not anymore. Now we are wounded. Now we are burnt. And the excuse here is not psychological illness or progressive disease or an altered mental state: rather, it’s a sense of entitlement from a position of power that shifted advocacy into assault.
We feel the sharp sting of cold metal on our own wrists. We hear the voice berating us despite calm and controlled attempts to explain our position. We smell the breath of a law enforcement official too close for comfort in a place that is intended to provide nothing but care. But who cared for Alex Wubbels? Who stood up for the nurse? Every single day – every single shift – we bend and we flex and we damn near crack – but who is there to help us back in place? It could have been any of us: any goddamn one of us…and for some, it may have ended worse than others. It’s time for our cohort of nursing professionals to stand together. It’s time for policy to protect those who care for others to be put in place. It’s time for everyone else to care for the nurses.
By Sonja M. Schwartzbach
Find her on instagram @nursesonja