Should Nurses Have Malpractice Insurance?
Posted: January 14, 2016 by Sarah Leavitt in Reference Desk
Just like physicians, nurses can carry malpractice insurance to protect them from pricey lawsuits. To determine if purchasing insurance is an option you should explore, here are five things to consider and understand.
What nursing malpractice really means
A simple definition for malpractice is failure to competently perform medical duties and ultimately harming the patient. But nursing malpractice isn’t simple. Much depends on who is responsible for the mistake, whether it rises to the level of negligence, and whether the duties were performed in a way that a normally competent nurse would.
A few of the most common allegations accuse nurses of failure to:
- Follow standards of care
- Use equipment responsibly
- Assess and monitor patient
In many cases, the nurse being accused may have had good intentions — following a doctor’s orders, for example, but did so without knowing how to properly use a piece of equipment. Could something like this happen to you?
Your employer’s policy
Before researching separate insurance for yourself, carefully review your employer’s liability coverage. Find out how robust the plan is: how much it will provide and for what, and if you are listed personally as a named insured. The policy was likely created first and foremost to protect the employer’s facility and needs, and there’s a chance that it only covers employees to a certain extent. You want to know what those liability limits are in the event that you and other nurses under the same policy are named in the same suit; there’s a chance that the legal costs may exceed your employer’s limit — expenses you wouldn’t want to have to cover yourself.
Another thing to consider is legal representation under your employer’s policy. If you are ever brought to court, your employer’s attorney — who may or may not always have your employer’s best interests at heart — would represent you in the judicial proceedings. If you were to have your own insurance policy, however, you would be provided with your own attorney through the insurance policy. Not only would you then have an attorney representing you first, but it would also cost you much less than if you were to hire legal counsel on your own.
Your employment status
If you’re a travel or temporary nurse, it’s wise to have individual coverage no matter where you are currently working. That’s because your hospital’s coverage for you is most likely limited, since you’re not a regular, full-time employee. And, it could be risky to count on your travel or temp agency to fill in the gap.
What’s the bottom line?
For many nursing professionals, the peace of mind that comes with extra protection makes an individual policy worth it. It’s smart to at least research your options; a number of carriers offer malpractice insurance you can purchase, and you can also buy liability insurance through the American Nurses Association. Assess your needs and compare costs to find the right policy for you.
Learn More: Click to view related resources.
- Coulter Boeschen, "Nursing Malpractice," Nolo
- Debra Wood, RN, "Do Nurses Need Their Own Professional Liability Insurance?," travelnursing.com
- "Top 5 Malpractice Claims Made Against Nursing Professionals"
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