When I was fresh out of nursing school, all bright and shiny, I bought a personal liability insurance policy, because I saw right away how easy it is to make a serious nursing mistake. As years passed, however, I let the policy lapse. At various new employee orientations throughout my career, hospital administrators told us forthrightly,
Nurses do not need liability insurance. Nurses are covered under the umbrella of this hospital’s insurance policy. The hospital is the financial deep pocket. No one sues individual nurses.
For years, this made sense. Lately, however, I’ve been rethinking this stance, for multiple reasons:
Stories of hospitals firing a nurse after he or she made a serious (often fatal) mistake are more frequent in the news. Perhaps this occurs because of the terms of the settlement. Perhaps the hospital promises a patient’s family that it will no longer employ the nurse. Or perhaps the nurse violated a hospital policy or protocol, and the hospital agrees not to disclose against the nurse in exchange for laying him or her off. Either way, the public never knows why. Does the umbrella of a hospital’s insurance cover a nurse they fired?
Commercially, the argument for purchasing personal liability insurance, even if the nurse is not fired, is this:
When a serious event occurs, the hospital’s legal department works on behalf of the hospital, not the nurses involved. A nurse’s legal rights and reputation are not the legal department’s priority. In such a scenario, an attorney hired by the nurse, working on her behalf and covered by her liability insurance, is a good investment.
Some insurance policies cover the costs incurred when a nurse is called to stand before their state board of nursing for complaints or misunderstandings filed against them.
Those who feel liability insurance is unnecessary argue that it cuts individual nurses “out of the group,” implying that being sued collectively offers more security.
Patient acuity is increasing, as are patient care loads. Many medications bear similar names, but cause very different results. As technology advances, nurses are required to maintain higher levels of vigilance. In the meantime, I’m getting older and acutely of how easy it is to make a serious nursing mistake.
Do you carry nurse liability insurance? Why or why not?