When you purchase your own professional liability insurance policy through Nurses Service Organization (NSO), you have peace of mind knowing that you have the resources available to protect your license and your right to practice.
At a time when the increased demands of nursing seem overwhelming, it's good to know that you made a wise decision to purchase your own professional liability insurance policy through Nurses Service Organization (NSO). You have peace of mind knowing that you have the resources available to protect you and your interests in a covered malpractice allegation or disciplinary proceeding.
The truth is, relying solely on an employer's policy is risky. An employer's policy is usually designed to protect your employer first. Further, it will only provide protection to you for incidents that occur at work. Also, it is not likely that an employer's policy will have any protection for you if the Board of Nursing (BON) is investigating you. And, let's face it; your license is one of your most valuable assets. You need to protect your license and your right to practice as best as you can.
If you are summoned to appear before a licensing board regarding a disciplinary inquiry that arises out of a covered incident, your policy through NSO will reimburse you up to $25,000 annual aggregate for your legal defense and other covered expenses. There are other covered expenses too, such as lost wages, travel and/or lodging that arise out of a covered license protection incident. But, to take advantage of this benefit, you need to contact NSO.
The value of license protection coverage
An accusation of professional misconduct should never be taken lightly. Even when you are certain that you have done nothing to warrant such allegations, never attempt to face the charges alone. Doing so could leave you unprepared to answer questions, which could leave you vulnerable to being deemed culpable.
Like the nurses in these two case studies below, you can learn how imperative it is to notify NSO immediately if you are ever called before your state board.
Case study: Medication error
A nurse, practicing for 13 years, was reported to the state BON by her employer for unprofessional conduct—failure to meet or departure from minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing nursing practice—after administering the wrong medication to an infant patient.
The infant had been diagnosed with an acute middle ear infection and acute bronchitis and was prescribed Rocephin 500 mg. IV and a Zithromax suspension for home use. The nurse administered Zithromax 500 mg. IV, instead of Rocephin 500 mg. IV. The infant developed cardiac arrest and was resuscitated. She was later transferred to another hospital. Soon after, the hospital reported the nurse to the BON, giving her 20 days to respond. Just shy of the 20-day requirement, the nurse called NSO to report the complaint. NSO provided her with all the necessary information and referred her to The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA) so she could select a nurse attorney in her state who would be experienced and qualified to defend her against the hospital's allegations.
Because the deadline-to-respond requirement was approaching, the attorney had to file an extension so she could review the case. During the hearing, the nurse's attorney was able to secure a settlement in which the BON stated, “Respondent neither admits nor denies the factual allegations in the Administrative Complaint.” Further, the attorney resolved that the nurse's license was only reprimanded, instead of being suspended or revoked as was recommended in the original complaint. Due to the extra time involved in filing an extension and the time it took to investigate the case, the legal fees and other expenses exceeded the policy limits. A total of $10,000 was reimbursed to the nurse at the closing of the case.
Case study: Traveling nurse
A nurse with 19 years of experience and excellent performance appraisals took a short-term nursing assignment in order to work in an area that was near where her husband was working. She worked the 3-11 p.m. shift. On the last night of her contract term, patient A who was complaining of chest pains arrived in the nurse's assigned unit from the ER at 6 p.m. for overnight observation on a telemetry monitor after all initial tests were reported as normal. The nurse was also responsible for supervising a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Since she was told that the CNA had advanced training in several areas, the nurse instructed the CNA to connect the unit to patient A. At 10 p.m., while assisting patient B, several staff members called the nurse back to patient A's room where it was discovered that the monitoring unit had no batteries and no one had called to verify that the signal was being received. Batteries were inserted that night and patient A was discharged without any complications the following day.
When the family of patient A complained to the hospital CEO about how care was managed, the hospital brought a complaint against the nurse to the state board, claiming that she engaged in unprofessional conduct by failing to properly supervise the CNA, failing to check the telemetry unit for batteries, and failing to check the telemetry unit to verify that the signal was being received by the central monitoring section.
In a letter notifying the nurse of the complaint, the BON said she would need to speak with an investigator. The nurse did so without calling NSO or seeking counsel. During the interview, the investigator went beyond his usual role, suggesting that the nurse hire an attorney. Realizing that the situation was more serious than she initially thought, the nurse called NSO and a TAANA attorney who specializes in professional misconduct complaints.
The attorney contacted the board to call attention to information relevant to the nurse's defense and was successful in getting the case reconsidered. In the original complaint, the nurse's supervisor claimed no one was aware that patient A wasn't monitored for the entire shift, even though the CNA was qualified to set up the telemetry unit and observe and report any changes with patient A while the nurse tended to other patients. The attorney pointed out that the nurse did what any reasonable nurse would do by expecting the CNA to perform her assigned task without constant, direct supervision. The Probable Cause Panel for the BON made the determination that there was no probable cause after reviewing the file and hearing a detailed response from the nurse, which was prepared with the guidance of her attorney. The case was closed, no action was taken against the nurse and all attorney fees amounting to $2,600 were reimbursed by NSO. If the nurse had continued without calling NSO and securing an attorney, it is likely that the case would not have concluded with this favorable outcome.
Other great NSO benefits
License Protection is just one of the many benefits that you get with the professional liability insurance policy you purchased through NSO. Your policy covers you if you are sued for malpractice, and it covers defense expenses that are paid in addition to your limits of liability. It also covers you for costs associated with a trial such as loss of wages.* Plus, you never share limits with other employees because the policy is yours.
Both cases described here demonstrate the importance of always calling NSO and an attorney right away when you face professional misconduct charges. Not doing so can leave you unprepared and vulnerable to large fines and possibly losing your license. Never agree to attend a hearing unless your attorney advises you to do so— and prepares you for the hearing.
Remember, if a patient perceives she has been injured as a result of a nurse providing, or failing to provide, professional services, that patient could sue. This doesn't mean you have been negligent. It means that the patient perceives negligence, so being protected by a policy, like the one offered through NSO, is one of the most important purchases you'll ever make. You should maintain the policy as long as you keep your license active.
*Defense expenses and lost wage costs are subject to the license.