Unfortunately, we live in a very litigious society. Those in the medical profession are especially prone to lawsuits and legal action taken against them. In many cases, the loss or injury of a family member results in a demand for retribution. Nurses are human; they can make errors, but can also fail in an action that would be considered neglect.

"Malpractice" means that the healthcare professional has deviated from professional standards of care or practice which may or may not have resulted in injury or death. Many employers offer some type of malpractice insurance for nurses. However, the coverage may not be enough to protect the nurse. Employers look after the company first, protecting themselves and their assets. There may be a cap in coverage, and the nurse would need to cover any additional costs or fees associated with an action taken against them.

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Not only could a nurse be open to financial responsibility related to a legal case, but the nurse may be open to termination after an unexpected event. Private malpractice insurance often covers discipline and licensing issues that may arise.

When looking for private malpractice insurance, nurses should select a policy that includes occurrence-based coverage as well as claims-made coverage. Occurrence-based coverage helps cover any incident that occurs no matter where you work, or even if you are working. It can even cover a nurse during retirement. Claims coverage protects nurses only during the life of the policy. While occurrence-based coverage seems like the best option, it tends to be more expensive.

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Choosing whether or not to carry malpractice insurance is a personal one. Nurses should be familiar with their employer's coverage as well as their policy on individuals carrying private insurance. Some employers do not allow nurses to carry private insurance. Nurses should also be familiar with what exactly is covered by their private insurance policy; for example, some policies do not cover legal fees. Knowing what policies cover will help guide nurses during a stressful and challenging time.

Nurses are in the business of caring. Unfortunately, working in a high-stress and fast-paced environment opens up nurses to the potential for error. Nurses should consider protecting themselves and their families in case the unexpected happens.

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