The American nursing care industry employees nearly 3 million individuals. Of those, a significant number work for private practices. In these offices, some nurses will have a lighter workload. Others will handle more than they would in a busy trauma center. Yet, one factor remains consistent—nurses provide critical care services to all patients. If they make mistakes, they could cost the patient, and the practice. If you are a nurse, what can you do in case of an unfortunate mistake?
A critical recourse for nurses who make mistakes is malpractice insurance. The key is to get the appropriate coverage for your nursing services.
What’s Malpractice Insurance?
Professional liability insurance covers individuals for the mistakes they make at their work.
In other words, if the service you provide harms another person, then they stand to suffer personal and financial losses. Because the accident was your fault, the client might hold you responsible for the losses. As a result, they might sue or request other compensation for their losses. That’s where malpractice insurance will come into play.
Malpractice coverage is a type of professional liability coverage. As a nurse, if you were to cause accidental harm to a patient, then you might have to cover the damage. A successful malpractice claim might help cover the claimant’s needs. Still, it can also protect both the individual responsible for the damage and the practice for which they work.
What Can A Nurse Claim?
You likely know a thing or two about the Hippocratic Oath. It is the definition of the highest ethical standards for medical professionals. One of the oath’s bedrocks is the concept of do no harm. Whenever you work with patients, you will strive to do just that.
However, no one is perfect, and unfortunately even the best nurses can make mistakes from time to time. In a worst-case scenario, even the smallest mistakes might cause horrific physical, emotional or financial harm to a patient. In the event of such an occurrence, they might have to file a claim on your malpractice insurance.
Malpractice coverage can help in the event of multiple instances of patient harm. Some of the events a nurse might claim could include all varieties of medical errors, from procedure mistakes to problems stemming from an improperly documented set of test results. Coverage might help the policyholder cover:
- Legal defense costs and attorney fees
- Medical damages or punitive damages
Policies will often cover both real and alleged claims of negligence. Still, they won’t cover everything. For example, criminal acts, such as sexual misconduct, won’t have coverage on most policies. Other exclusions will vary by policy. Thus, the safety-conscious nurse should strive to get the coverage that’s most appropriate for their needs. Determining this protection, however, will likely take a bit of investigation.
How Can Nurses Obtain Coverage?
Nurses generally can get their malpractice coverage from a couple of different sources.
- Some will need to carry their own policy in their own name.
- In other cases, their employer or practice will already provide appropriate coverage.
- Certain nurses might even need their employer’s coverage alongside their own coverage.
Determining which course is for you will usually merit coordination with your practice. If you find that you will need more coverage in addition to the employer’s policy, then you might need to look for coverage on your own. Talk to the practice’s policy manager to determine the course of action to take.
What Policy Options Exist?
If you decide you need stand-alone coverage, then you still have decisions to make. Malpractice coverage comes in a few different forms. How each one will apply to your liabilities will vary. In the broadest sense, you have the choice between two types of coverage.
- Occurrence policies cover incidents as long as they occurred while the policy existed. So, no matter when a claim occurs, the policy can still cover the nurse, even if it has expired. So, if someone makes a claim in 2018 for something that happened in 2015, an occurrence policy can help as long as it was active in 2015.
- Claims-made policies are a bit different. They will only cover claims made during the term for accidents that happened during the term. Let’s say you have coverage from 2016 to 2020. Someone files a claim in 2019 for an accident occurring in 2018. You will have coverage under the 2016-2020 policy.
- However, if someone files a claim in 2021 for the 2018 mistake, then the claims-made coverage won’t apply. Carriers of claims-made policies might need to carry certain riders or extensions to maintain coverage for past incidents.
Work alongside your practice management and a malpractice insurance agent to determine the right coverage for you. You might be able to feel much more secure in your position by knowing you have coverage.