When Lisa Hofstra, RN, reported for her shift as a charge nurse in Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center's ED on August 1, 2009, she had no idea her entire career would change overnight.
In the midst of an already hectic night with several trauma cases, Hofstra clashed with a Chicago police officer. The officer arrived at the ED around 4:45 a.m. with a driver who'd fatally struck another motorist. After she refused to draw blood for a DUI test before registering the suspect as a patient, she was arrested. Hofstra sued the City of Chicago Police Department for alleged force and false arrest. Earlier this year, the case was settled out of court for $78,000. Representatives of the Chicago Police Department declined to participate in this interview.
According to Hofstra, the officer was "quite demanding" upon arriving in the ED. Unlike many patients involved in DUI cases, the suspect required no other medical care.
Standard protocol at Advocate Illinois Masonic dictated the patients must be registered before any blood could be drawn. By coincidence, a supervisor was also present at this time and re-affirmed Hofstra's stance. Further arguments ensued and the two were forced to call and wake up the director of emergency and trauma.
The director advised Hofstra to contact the police lieutenant, who also insisted that the patient be registered before any action could be taken.
Further complicating matters was Hofstra's next discovery that the hospital was out of DUI kits. "I am in no shape, way or form responsible for ordering the kits," she said. "We later found out that several area EDs were out of kits."
A security officer left to get more kits, Hofsta said, even though it wasn't the hospital's responsibility. She offered the officer a private room to wait with the suspect.
"At this point, he actually sat down in our nurses' station in front of the computers, which is a big no-no," Hofstra said. "I had to call security to get him out of the nurses' station."
In the meantime, the security guard returned with the DUI kits and the suspect's spouse or significant other started saying that his attorney advised against drawing any bodily fluid whatsoever.
"I told (the officer) this has become a sticky situation and we're going to have to page a supervisor. I told him they usually respond in just a couple of minutes. He told me I was obstructing justice."
The next few minutes were a blur but Hofstra found herself in handcuffs, being led out of the ED. "He didn't tell me I was under arrest, nothing just grabbed my arms and put me in handcuffs," she said.
Hofstra was dragged to a squad car, where she was forced to wait 45 minutes. The vice president of nursing and other high ranking hospital administrators were left to negotiate with the police. Hofstra later heard it resembled a hostage situation where the police officer said he's return the nurse once the blood sample was drawn.
"We actually had traumas going on at this point in time as well," said Hofstra. "I had other patients who were taken away from me. Thankfully, other nurses were able to assume my care (responsibilities). I don't think the officer thought of any repercussions of his actions."
With nearly a year and a legal settlement since her arrest, Hofstra still feels strongly that there need to be changes in DUI testing. While she said it's impractical for the police to be trained as phlebotomists, she wonders aloud if police lab technicians can accountability for DUI blood tests.
Listen to more of Hofstra's thoughts on the need for medical personnel and police to collaborate here.
She hopes other nurses learn from her experience and become well-versed in legal policy.
"When you get caught up in a situation like that where you have somebody badgering you to do what they want you to do, it's important to know what the right thing to do is," she said.
Today, Hofstra still works in an ED setting.
"I still love my job. I still love doing what I do," Hofstra said.
Robin Hocevar is senior regional editor at ADVANCE.