Like all healthcare professionals, nurses are human beings. And human beings make mistakes. But unlike the mistakes made by most other professionals, errors by nurses can have life-altering consequences for both their patients and the nurses themselves. Yet most nurses don’t carry malpractice insurance. Instead, they rely on their employer’s coverage to protect them if they’re sued.
According to some experts, that’s a mistake.
Malpractice insurance for nurses is surprisingly inexpensive — a $1 million/$6 million policy costs less than $100 per year in many parts of the United States. So why don’t nurses purchase malpractice insurance more often? According to Taralynn Mackay, J.D. R.N., an attorney with McDonald, Mackay & Weitz in Austin, Texas, it’s often because they believe these common myths.
Myth 1. My employer’s insurance will cover me
While it’s true that the employer’s insurance typically covers nurses who work in a hospital or clinic, that doesn’t mean a nurse shouldn’t carry insurance herself. According to Mackay, the employer may well have a sufficient coverage. But it may limit coverage for certain professionals or for certain types of events. Additionally, if the nurse was negligent, the employer can sue her to recover defense costs and damages it paid.
“The hospital attorney is loyal to what the hospital wants,” Mackay said in an interview with TravelNursing.com. “You want [your own coverage] for malpractice and for an investigation before the board. You need someone on your side, watching out for your interests.”
Furthermore, if a nurse is brought up before the state licensing board, the employer’s insurance may not cover the cost of defending the case, Mackay explains. And those costs can be prohibitively expensive: between $3,000 and $5,000 for the initial investigation and $8,000 and $15,000 per day at the hearing stage.
Myth 2. Having insurance invites lawsuits
When a medical or nursing error occurs, standard practice is to sue everyone involved: the doctor, the employer, and any nurses who were caring for the patient at the time. The attorneys don’t know who has insurance when they file the lawsuit. Nor do they know what policy covers which members of the healthcare team. Whether you have insurance is a confidential matter unless you choose to divulge the information yourself.
Some experts caution, however, that nurses should limit their coverage so that they’re not “deep pockets” in a malpractice case. Say, for example, a nurse working for a small physician practice carries $1 million in liability insurance, and the physicians’ policy limits their coverage to $500,000. In this case, the plaintiff’s attorneys may try to prove that the nurse was negligent or more responsible for an error than she actually was.
Myth 3. Good nurses don’t get sued
This myth is probably the biggest reason nurses leave themselves uninsured. In most cases, nurses are working under the direction of a physician. And so they make the mistake of thinking that as long as they are following a doctor’s orders and their employer’s policies, they are legally in the clear. But that simply isn’t true.
Nurses are responsible for their own professional actions. If a nurse follows an incorrect order and a patient suffers harm, both she and the physician who wrote the order are legally at fault. And now that nurses’ salaries are rivaling those of physicians in some parts of the United States, there’s no reason to believe that a plaintiff will not pursue both the doctor and the nurse in a malpractice suit.
For nurses, professional liability insurance is an effective way to protect their livelihood and their careers. Given the low cost and potential benefits, not having malpractice insurance is a risk no nurse should take.
At the Carmoon Group, we offer affordable professional liability for all healthcare professionals: including doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Why leave your future to chance? Give us a call to discuss your malpractice insurance needs today. Or simply fill out our online form and we’ll get back to you right away.