mimi coomler on Alex Wubbles, Utah nurse and patient advocate

How a Utah Nurse Inspires Us – Mimi Coomler CNO

Just before Labor Day weekend, I pulled up CNN and watched Alex Wubbles, a nurse in Utah, so bravely advocate for her patient when asked to produce her patient’s blood for law enforcement. Over the weekend, I played that video again and again watching a heroic nurse advocate for her patient, a hospital administration that stood by their nurse, and the demonstration of the power of a policy.

Wubbles had the backing of a Supreme Court ruling, her institutional procedure and the real-time support of a hospital administrator. She advocated for her patient in the face of authority, putting herself at risk in a manner she could not have envisioned.

From my perspective as the chief nursing officer at TMC, a 600-bed urban community hospital, the lesson of her example is the importance of nurses as advocates for their patients. In health care, we call this “stopping the line,” which is a term used in manufacturing when a line worker stops the production line anytime someone’s safety is in question.

As nurses we are taught many important skills – how to administer medication, how to do procedures like start IVs, but there is no skill more important than learning to advocate for our patients.

In hospitals across the country, nurses are faced with requests for them to go outside of standard procedure or against policy – perhaps for the sake of efficiency, at the request of the family or based on a request from a nurse or physician colleague.

So how should nurses handle this?  I propose that we should act just as Nurse Wubbels did – citing the policy and respectfully declining to carry out what was requested.

Nurses are human and we shoulder a great responsibility. An article in Patient Safety and Quality: An Evidence-Based Handbook for Nurses  describes nurses as working at the “sharp end” of the health care system.  In order to make health care systems safer we need to work to move nurses from the sharp end to the blunt end.

In the video of the Utah nurse, I saw a few things that were evidence of the hospital moving nurses to the blunt end. I paid close attention to that administrator on the phone in that video – standing by the nurse – what powerful support. She also had clear knowledge of the policy – she was armed with the information she needed to do her job.

This includes supporting nurses and caregivers when they stop the line - Mimi Coomler Click To Tweet

My job as chief nurse is to be advocate for our nurses and be a catalyst for moving our nurses from the sharp end of patient care to the blunt end. This includes supporting nurses and caregivers when they stop the line, ensuring all are educated on our policy and procedures, and creating a culture of quality and safety that is always focused on doing what’s right for the patient.

We are here to advocate for our patients – no matter how difficult that job may be. We must make our voice heard (and our patient’s voice heard) with our colleagues, with our doctors, with law enforcement and, yes, sometimes even with a patient’s family. It’s not just our job, it’s our calling.

Alex Wubbles, RN, stood strong for her patient who couldn’t speak for himself. Her professionalism, passion and commitment remind me of why I am proud to be a nurse.


Mimi Coomler
Chief Nursing Officer

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