Major Court Case Brings Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Insurance Into the Limelight
What started as a simple mistake ended up traversing three years, two different trials, and involved thousands of hours of investigative work. On December 26th, 2017 former Vanderbilt hospital nurse RaDonda Vaught allegedly gave a patient in the hospital the wrong medication, which lead to the patient’s death. The Tennessean, a newspaper covering the Nashville area reports the following:
During a final scan in the hospital’s radiology department, Murphey is supposed to be given a sedative, Versed, but is accidentally given a dose of vecuronium, a powerful paralyzing medication, according to a federal investigations report. The drug leaves her brain dead.
Vaught allegedly admits to hospital staff she is responsible for the medication error.
Despite the fact that RaDonda Vaught quickly admitted to her error, she was criminally indicted for the mistake. In court, Vaught took full responsibility for the error that she made, but she also claimed that it was the result of faulty procedures used by nurses in the hospital every day. Despite her statements about the hospital’s procedures and how they could have been structured better, the Tennessee Board of Nursing was unswayed and ultimately voted to strip Vaught of her nursing license.
The Vital Nature of Nurse Practitioner Malpractice Insurance
The story above should illustrate an important lesson about the sacred work that nurses do and just how quickly that work can be turned upside down. RaDonda Vaught, who is only 38 years old at the time of this writing and had only been a nurse at Vanderbilt Hospital for two years at the time of the incident has now had her entire life turned upside down. She has been sentenced to 3 years probation, lost her nursing license, and has had her reputation damaged seemingly beyond all repair. Even as letters of support for Vaught come in from all over the country, one has to wonder what they would do if they were in her shoes.
Nurse practitioner malpractice insurance is created precisely for situations like this. Regardless of where you come down about the particular actions that this individual nurse took, the fact remains that she was charged and ultimately convicted of malpractice. If she had a significant malpractice insurance policy, it would not have saved her from the reputational harm that was done as a result of this case, but it might have put her on a better path financially speaking.
Nurse Practitioner | Peace of Mind For a Small Price
The hectic nature of the work that nurses do is good enough reason all by itself to consider getting malpractice insurance to keep yourself covered and protected. After all, the cost of the insurance is a small price to pay for some peace of mind when you are working with your patients. Wouldn’t you rather be able to focus all of your attention and energy on your patient instead of being constantly distracted by a nagging worry that you might be doing something wrong?
Defend Your License and Protect Your Assets
A nurse’s license is his or her lifeline to be able to work in the career that they have worked so hard to build. They spend countless hours hitting the books and doing clinical work in order to be certified as a registered nurse who is licensed by the state to provide medical care to patients. After all of that hard work and struggle, wouldn’t you want to protect your license at all costs? That is what malpractice insurance can help you do. If you are sued as the result of the care that you provided to a patient, your malpractice insurance will help protect your license from being revoked in many cases.
Additionally, your insurance policy can protect valuable assets that you have in your name from being taken away as the result of a lawsuit. For example, if you own your home, vehicle, or another tangible asset that could be taken away from you as the result of a lawsuit, you need coverage.
Protection Outside of a Given Medical Institution
Some nurses think that they don’t need to purchase a malpractice policy of their own because they already have one through their employer. It is true that many hospitals and doctors’ offices provide nurses with a limited malpractice policy as part of the contract that they sign when they agree to work there. However, those policies have a limited scope of usefulness, and you may be surprised to learn that they won’t cover nursing work that you do outside of the building where you are employed. In some cases, even if the outside event is sponsored by your employer, it still may not be covered on your malpractice policy through your employer.
Should You Contact an Attorney About Malpractice Provisions in Your Contract?
Have you ever stopped and wondered if there was a reason why you should perhaps stop and contact a nurse practitioner contract attorney about the various provisions written into your nursing contract? You are not wrong for having this thought.
An attorney can go over the questions you may have about your contract to ensure that it is a safe contract for you to sign:
- Does it provide adequate malpractice insurance for you?
- What are the stipulations attached to the malpractice insurance that is provided?
- Are there reasons to believe that you should purchase additional malpractice insurance on top of what is automatically provided by your employer?
- Is there anything else that you should ask for from your employer before accepting the position (such as the removal of a non compete)?
Your attorney is on your side in all of these matters, and he or she will look out for you in ways that no employer ever will. Scanning through contracts to look for anything that might raise a red flag is what these professionals are paid to do.
Hiring an attorney to go over your contract takes just a short amount of time and a small amount of money to buy you the peace of mind that you want when you dive into a new job. If you would like to get a meeting set up with one of our talented professionals who can go over every aspect of your contract line by line, we strongly encourage you to contact us and let us know how we can be of assistance today.
Additional Information | Tail Insurance Cost for Nurse Practitioners
How much does tail insurance cost for a nurse practitioner? First, we need to talk about what types of malpractice insurance are available, and then when you have a certain type, do you need tail insurance? First, the setting is important. If an NP is employed by a hospital or hospital network, usually, at least nowadays, they’re self-insured, which means tail insurance generally is not necessary. If they do have a claims-made policy, then tail insurance is necessary. However, if you’re employed by a hospital or hospital network, it is very rare that a nurse practitioner would have to pay for their own tail. When they would have to pay for their own tail is in a kind of private practice setting.
If they’re employed by a smaller physician-owned group, or in some states if they have their own practice. In that case, two types of insurance are the most common. One is called an occurrence-based and one is claims made. Now, with an occurrence-based policy, the malpractice incident only must occur while a policy is in effect and meaning tail insurance is unnecessary. As far as claims made insurance goes, a policy must be in effect when the claim is made. And so, tail insurance is necessary for a claims-made policy. Just to kind of break down claims made, let’s say, a nurse practitioner is employed with a private physician-owned practice. If they terminate their employment, there still is a gap from when a patient knows the last day that the nurse practitioner provided care for the practice.
Usually, there’s a two-year statute of limitations in most states. And in that case, the patient can sue after the nurse practitioner no longer works for that practice. Therefore, a policy must be in effect that kind of covers that gap in between when they leave and then the last day, they can be sued by somebody. As I said before, in most states, it’s two years from when the patient either knew or should have known of the malpractice incident. There are also some minor exceptions for minors when they become adults, that type of thing. But for the most part, two years is kind of a good rule of thumb. In the employment contract, if the nurse practitioner has a claims-made policy, it’s going to state who pays for tail insurance. If it’s a private practice, I’d say it’s often, the NP would be responsible for it. Other blogs of interest include:
- Tail Insurance Cost for a Nurse Practitioner
- What Should be in a Nurse Practitioner Contract Termination Letter?
As I said before, if they’re in a hospital or hospital network, more times than not, the hospital is going to cover it. If the nurse practitioner is responsible to pay for tail, it must be purchased generally prior or right around the date of termination with the employer. And a good rule of thumb is it’s about twice what your annual premium is. Your annual premium is simply how much the employer must pay to insure you each year. If you had to pay for tail insurance, it normally is around twice what your annual premium is, and it’s a one-time payment. You don’t have to pay it every year. It’s all paid upfront and your tail is covered for as long as whatever the length of the tail policy you bought was. Tail insurance can have longer tails than others.
I mean, you could get theoretically one year tail, two-year tail, or an infinite tail. For most people, five years is kind of a good safe amount. If you had a two-year tail, but then something happened in year four or five, you are no longer insured, and it would be an issue. Now, how much does malpractice insurance cost for most NPs? Usually, it’s somewhere between 1500 to 2,500. So, let’s just say it’s $2,000. Then your tail cost would be around 4,000. Not like an enormous amount of money, but certainly something you may want to negotiate prior to signing the employment agreement. A couple of things to think about: one, if an, if it states that you must pay for tail, you can always ask the employer to pay for it. That’s one way of doing it.
If they’re unwilling to pay the entire amount, sometimes we’re successful in kind of tiering it. Let’s say, you have a three-year term for your contract. You could say one-third of the tail costs will be taken over by the employer for each year they’re there. So, by the time the three years is over, the employer pays the entire cost of tail insurance. Another way of getting out of having to pay for it would be if your new employer pays for your old tail. That’s called nose insurance. Or, if you stay with the same insurance company, normally, they will just roll over your policy wherever your new employer is, and you wouldn’t have to pay for tail insurance. This is something you can negotiate in the contract. Now, some employers are just simply unwilling to change any terms in the agreement, or maybe unwilling to change this term. And then, if that’s the scenario, you must make the decision of whether it’s a deal-breaker for you or not. So, that’s how much tail insurance costs, usually around twice what your annual premium is. You certainly want to find out what your annual premium is prior to signing the agreement. And that way you can forecast what your tail insurance cost will be.
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