What the incident in Utah proves about the state of nursing

When that cop slapped cuffs on to nurse Alex Wubbels, the nation heaved a collective cry of indignation. Yes, this was an abuse of power by a cop who did not understand the rules of consent.

Although consent has been the primary focus of this incident, there is another, more insidious problem at work here. Would this cop have arrested a doctor who refused the same treatment?

The unfortunate answer is probably not. Let’s face it: doctors are often the paragons of respect both in the medical realm and in society itself.

And what are nurses? We are secretaries, right? Or we are those who are designed and trained to take and obey orders.

In short, nurses are not generally respected as an authority in the medical field, and this likely led to the Utah incident. The cop didn’t have respect to just a nurse and cuffed her for her independent thinking.

Does this disrespect extend even further into our society? How many other Utahs go unreported?

It also begs the question as to how many members of the public see nurses as merely secretaries. Yes, nurses are trusted, but are they respected?

We are trusted to take the medical issues to the doctor, to see to good care, and to provide comfort, but are nurses respected as full members of the medical team?

Many in the general public don’t understand the clinical skills of the nurse, skills that allow us to converse with all members of the healthcare team — including doctors. If the cop in Utah would have known this about nurses, would he have acted differently?

Another shocking question to ask about this case is regarding the gender of those involved. If Wubbels had been male, would this have turned out differently?

It’s almost offensive to think of it, but it is a truth nevertheless. If she had been a male then the cop may have respected her authority more, regardless of her status as a nurse.

Unfortunately, nursing is still a female dominated profession. That is unfortunate because men may be reluctant to come into nursing due to that very lack of respect.

That female dominance, though, can lead to a type of sexism that is still prevalent in the minds of many. It could very well have been a factor in this case.

The prime mover in the Utah incident primarily comes down to an egregious lack of respect for nurses. Whether it is lack for status, lack for clinical skills, or blatant sexism, respect is the primary issue.

While everyone else looks at consent, nurses need to look at the respect issue and the ramifications those issues have on the profession. These are indicative of a much larger problem than simple consent.

Only by teaching the public to respect nurses as medical equals can we avoid be treated like Wubbels was in Utah.


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