Malpractice lawsuits are scary and traumatizing. As a nurse, you have closer contact to the patients. Unlike the doctors, nurses are the real faces and heart of the hospital.
Unfortunately, this puts them in a front row position where if they make a mistake and it results in severe consequences, they can be easily sued. This never used to be a real issue 2-3 decades ago.
But, with the increased activities of the patients’ rights movement as well as the rising rate of malpractice lawsuits, it only makes sense that you be extremely careful while on the job. The following are proven ways that nurses can help prevent or minimize any chances of having their names mentioned in a malpractice claim.
Being Careful About Who to Delegate Duties to
This is particularly important for registered nurses. This is even more important seeing as hospital staff reductions have been the norm over the last few years. As a result, RNs often have to delegate the various duties and tasks to licensed practical nurses, unlicensed assistive personnel and licensed vocational nurses.
Naturally, if this personnel botches the job of patient care because they don’t know what to do or how to do their duties effectively, you will most likely be at the center of a malpractice lawsuit.
Document All Patient Care Communications and Activities
Patient care is a tough enough activity. But, we also want to ensure that that you stay safe and without reproach. So, whenever you have some free time, try to document your communications with the patient and their relatives.
This is important particularly if it happens that you’re being accused of issuing the wrong order, administering the wrong drug or being careless with your recommendations. So, make sure to document all conversations between yourself and the patient.
There’s also the place of documenting all patient related activity. For instance, if you already administered a dose of drugs to an unconscious patient without documenting it in the patient’s file, another nurse can assume that you haven’t done so and administer another one, essentially doubling the dosage and potentially putting the patient at risk.
So, no matter what happens, always document your interactions, drug administrations, and activities.
Have an Open Communication with Patients, Their Families, and the Physician
Poor communication is a recurring theme in many malpractice suits. For instance, there could be a gap in the communication between
- The nurse and physician
- The nurse and the patients and relatives
- The nurse and the people she delegated tasks to or those she works with.
This communication gap can result in anything wrong drug dosage to an incorrect surgical procedure. So, whatever you do, ensure that your communication with all parties are excellent and there are no misunderstandings. So, always make sure to communicate effectively with the patient care team
Only Perform Duties You’ve Been Trained For
Enthusiasm and zeal are both great, but they can work against you if you’re not suited for the tasks. So, unless you’re qualified to do a task, don’t do it, regardless of the urgency or importance.
This is important because if the patient suffers or their condition worsens as a result of your ignorance, the patient and/or their relatives probably wouldn’t think of your intention. All they’d think about is the fact that your actions worsened their condition.
Always Adhere to Standard of Care Protocols
Every hospital has a standard of care protocol. It is your duty to stick to it deliver the expected level of patient care. Always familiarize yourself with your hospital’s standard of care, your state’s nursing rules and regulations as well as the organization’s policies and practices.
Finally, always have your own malpractice lawyer. Depending on your organization’s attorney, it may not be a good idea to hire them, because if it comes to choosing sides, the lawyer’s primary interest is the organization. Having your own malpractice lawyer will help protect you. It is also important to talk to an expert who handles medical malpractice insurance, such as the agents at Oros Risk, to have a better understanding of your coverage and rights.
Oscar King is an insurance agent and freelance writer who shares his tips and insights into choosing the right insurance. If you would like to learn more about certain insurance coverages and Oscar, you can check out his Google+ profile.