Being named in a medical malpractice lawsuit can be very traumatic and put you under a great deal of stress. Nurses can be sued for any action or failure to act that results in an injury to a patient. More often than not, these failures are unintentional, but can still lead to a malpractice lawsuit.
Although you can’t control every situation, five things you can do to lessen the chances of being sued for medical malpractice:
1. Don’t offer advice or treatments if it is outside of your field of expertise. Likewise, don’t offer any type of medical care if you are not at work. Refer the person to their doctor or personal physician instead.
2. If you order a test for a patient, follow through with your colleagues to ensure the test was completed and find out the results. Communication is key when you have a patient under your care. Make sure that you and your colleagues are on the same page. It’s also important to communicate effectively with patients and that they understand what is going on at all times.
3. Document everything that happens between you and your patients. Be diligent about taking notes of any advice and treatments you offer so that outsiders are able to see your process in case of any misunderstanding.
4. Take a deep breath and slow down. This can be a challenge, especially if you work in a high-pace environment like the emergency room, or the ratio of patients to nurses is high. You may be in a rush to get to that next patient, but that can lead to careless mistakes. Even a short pause to take a deep breath can make a difference.
5. Get plenty of sleep. The effects of insufficient sleep have been well documented including cognitive issues, mood swings, reduced job performance, reduced motivation, increased safety risks, and physiological problems. Struggling to stay awake during your shift can lead to detrimental consequences including medical errors.
In addition to following these tips to avoid malpractice lawsuit, it’s also important for nurses to evaluate their malpractice insurance to ensure they have adequate coverage. Some nurses have their own liability insurance policy, but there are many who rely on their employer’s coverage, which may not be sufficient. One of the benefits of having your own coverage is that you get your own personal attorney who will protect your needs as opposed to serving your employer’s interests first.
What other things can nurses do to prevent a medical malpractice lawsuit?