Recent cases have been in the news related to nurses and the care they provide. In several of these cases, patients have been seriously injured or died due to the care nurses offered. Even in the best situations, accidents and mistakes can occur when working in the hospital.
Now more than ever, nurses are facing increased stress at the bedside. Nursing shortages, the ongoing pandemic, and higher patient acuity have all factored in nurses’ stress levels and moments of burnout. This article will cover the basics of professional liability insurance and why it’s essential for nurses and nursing students. Stay tuned for updates; I am launching an in-depth course to help you better understand insurance.
What is Professional Liability Insurance
Professional liability insurance provides coverage if you are involved in a lawsuit. Similar to car, home, or malpractice insurance, professional liability insurance can protect you if you’re involved in a lawsuit. Insurance can cover attorney’s fees, time off work, and damages awarded. When patients are hurt, seriously injured, or die, they or their family representative may sue the hospital for damages associated with treatment.
Nurses can be sued for multiple reasons, including the following:
- Failure to notify providers regarding critical patient information
- Medication errors
- Failure to monitor & assess patients after administering treatments.
- Practicing outside of their scope of practice
Fraud is known as deliberate or intentional deception. For example, a nurse could be involved in fraud if they intentionally misrepresent their professional credentials. Failure to notify providers can occur if a nurse is made aware of a critical lab value, such as an elevated troponin level (an indication of a heart attack), and fails to notify a provider. If the patient suffers adverse injury due to the provider not being notified, the patient could sue. Medication errors occur when the incorrect medicine is given to a patient. Additional medication errors include giving medicine to the wrong patient, the wrong route, or administering it at the wrong time. Medication errors can also include providing medications to patients without a doctor’s prescription.
Assault is considered deliberate physical harm to another person. Examples of assault in a clinical setting include hitting, slapping, or verbal threats. When nurses fail to monitor or assess patients after administering a treatment, they could face a lawsuit if the patient experiences an adverse reaction. For example, suppose a nurse administers a blood transfusion to a patient and doesn’t monitor the patient for the first 15 minutes, and the patient suffers a transfusion reaction. In that case, the nurse could be liable for damages if the patient sues the nurse. Failure to practice outside the nursing scope can include performing procedures deemed above the nurse’s level of practice. Examples of this can include intubating patients or changing prescriptions and medication orders without physician approval. Make sure to review your state board of nursing website and your hospital’s policies to fully understand the scope of practice where you work.
One scenario of a possible lawsuit involves medication errors. Let’s say a nurse mistakenly administers the wrong medication to a patient, resulting in severe injury or death; they may be sued for negligence in the situation. Another example of possible negligence, which could lead to a risk of a lawsuit, involves nurses who administer medications without a physician’s order.
Insurance covers claims (formal requests for compensation) of assault, negligence, invasion of privacy, bodily harm, and costs related to medical expenses. Some policies may even cover first aid, educational activities, and legal representation should you have to appear in court.
Do nurses and nursing students need insurance?
Yes! Nurses practicing in all clinical settings can benefit from carrying professional liability insurance. Nurses can be sued by patients, patients’ family members, hospitals, anonymous sources, and even colleagues. They can also be sued in various clinical settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, and home health agencies. Anywhere a nurse works, they have the chance of becoming involved in a lawsuit.
Insurance is one way to protect your professional reputation, nursing license, and assets. Having the proper insurance not only protects your license but can also provide nurses with legal representation, which has been shown to positively affect case outcomes.
Not only can nurses be sued for negligence, but nursing students can too. While you’re in nursing school, you may engage in patient care that could result in harm to a patient. To gain additional experience, nursing students volunteer at clinics, health fairs, and health centers. As a result, students can be sued by patients even if the students are practicing in good faith.
Remember that certain nursing specialties such as Labor & Delivery, Emergency Department, and the Intensive Care Unit can have higher insurance premiums. These and several other specialties are considered highly specialized areas and are subject to more instances of claims and lawsuits.
How do I get insurance?
Employers have insurance in place to protect the healthcare organization, referred to as employer-provided insurance. This insurance covers nurses when they work on behalf of an employer. Please be aware that employer insurance protects the hospital’s best interests, so it’s vital you have your insurance to protect yourself too. After all, you’re valuable and worked very hard to get your license!
Employer-provided insurance typically doesn’t cover:
- Claims made by the state board of nursing
- Offering nursing advice to family & friends
- Volunteering for events not sponsored by your hospital
Nursing schools may require you to purchase insurance before enrolling in school or before starting your clinical rotations. Make sure to review your school’s policies if insurance is required. Usually, schools will have a suggested list of insurers they recommend students purchase insurance from.
Many companies offering insurance for nurses will often have policies for nursing students. Once you graduate nursing school, you can increase your policy to cover your professional license.
Insurance typically costs several hundred dollars annually for a policy that insurers for $1,000,000. Prices can vary depending on the company, nursing specialty, inflation, and insurance policy changes.
Once you decide to purchase insurance, visit the company’s website to receive a quote and apply. After you’ve applied and are approved for insurance, your coverage usually begins immediately. You can download a copy of your insurance card directly from the company’s website as proof for both your school and employer that you have insurance.
Your nursing license is one of your most significant professional assets and can take your career very far. Please do yourself a favor and protect your nursing license by providing safe nursing care and by having professional insurance. Not only can insurance cover your present nursing career, but it can also help protect your reputation and any future endeavors you want to pursue in your career. Insurance can offer peace of mind and protection should you find yourself in a court case.
Please check out our Nursing 101 Facebook Group:
- A group for nursing students
- Join a group of future nurses in similar positions as you
- You can ask questions about nursing school
- Lots of nurses in this group also share information about insurance
- Nursing FaceBook Group
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