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Do these things to minimize your risk for malpractice

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No one wants to get sued…

 

One area that can be a bit nerve-wracking working as a provider is the fear of liability. Liability related to prescribing medications, adverse outcomes, and documentation to name a few.

Luckily, there are ways to minimize this risk.

But before delving into how to minimize your risk for malpractice, first know that nurse practitioners have one of the lowest malpractice rates.

Nurse practitioners’ malpractice rate is 1.1% as the primary defendant, which is in line with nurses being one of the most trusted professions! NPs have lower malpractice rates than physicians or physician assistants.

And thankfully, study trends show that malpractice claims are decreasing across all healthcare professionals (MDs, PAs, and NPs). Great news!

 

So, now that we’re a bit more at ease, how do we minimize risk for malpractice as we practice?
 
I dug through the literature and found a few important takeaways that you should be implementing in practice.

1. Actively engage your patient in the plan of care with a collaborative approach related to decision-making. Actively engaged patients are more likely to be satisfied with their visits and less likely to pursue legal action if something goes awry.1

 

2. Review what other providers have documented. Review records from previous providers as well as records of other members of your care team.  As a healthcare team, different providers ask different questions and might pick up different symptoms that help you create a fuller picture of your patient. Reviewing these records and addressing any discrepancies helps create a most accurate record.2

 

3. Explain your thinking. A critical section of your notes is the “Impression” section or “Medical Decision-Making” section. Here you include your rationale for why certain treatment approaches are taken and why others are avoided. Have a solid rationale for why you are doing what you are doing, including ruling out differential diagnoses.3 

 

4. Understand your scope of practice as defined by your state Board of Nursing. It’s important to practice within your scope of practice as an NP. The best place to ensure you’re doing this is reviewing your state’s Board of Nursing website. 

 

5. Know when to refer your patient to a specialist. This tip goes along with understanding your scope of practice. You should only be treating patients you have the capacity to treat. Understanding when your patient requires a specialist will help you move quicker to get your patient the specialty care they need. 

 

6. Foster positive relationships with your patients. The better rapport you have with your patient, the more forthcoming they’re likely to be with providing important treatment information (this is particularly true for psych NPs, but really relevant to all specialties). Positive relationships also create mutual respect and understanding which reduces the likelihood of liability if something goes wrong. 

 

7. Make sure your patients are informed of treatment options and risks (and also document these). Patients have a right to understand risks, benefits, and alternatives to treatment. Take the time to discuss these with your patients and also document this discussion (it didn’t happen if it wasn’t charted). 

 

8. Lastly, make sure you have malpractice insurance (often covered by your employer) AND keep a copy of your policy. Policies are renewed annually so you should have a policy for every 12-month period. Some of the things you’ll want to know are what kinds of incidents are covered within the malpractice policy? And what support does the policy provide during a claim?

 

 

It’s prideful that nurses have maintained the privilege of being one of the most trusted providers.

Know that you are among one of the most trusted professionals, and that’s not by accident. Let’s continue this amazing trend.

 
 
PS. Did you find this helpful? If so, please share with an NP friend!

 

 
 

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