To avoid lawsuits, be the best CM you can be

Learn, and follow professional standards of care

The best way to avoid being named in a malpractice lawsuit is "to be the most knowledgeable and professional case manager you can. Period. End of story," Cathy Nearhoof, RN, BSN, CCM, NMCC, CLNC asserts.

That means familiarizing yourself with the case management standards of care and following them to the letter, says Nearhoof, owner/consultant of Integrist Healthcare Consulting in Pittsburgh.

Many case managers don’t know that there are published professional standards of care, she says. "How can you travel from one place to another when you don’t have a map?"

Keep up with CE

Work and study to improve yourself professionally, Nearhoof suggests. Keep up with your continuing education units, even if it means doing it on your own time and expense. Read professional journals, join professional organizations, and get certified.

Certification doesn’t necessarily make you a better case manager, but it does announce your commitment and dedication to the profession of case management, she adds.

"As a profession, we must take the responsibility and assume accountability for our professional outcomes and development if we are going to be taken seriously," she says.

Here are some other suggestions from Nearhoof that may help you avoid a lawsuit:

  • Show sincere concern for your patients’ well-being.
  • Include the patient in conversations with the practitioner and family members.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.

For example, don’t promise you will send a patient to a certain facility when she gets out of the hospital. She may have to go to one she didn’t choose and may look at you to blame.

  • Document everything.

Make a note if the patient is continuously noncompliant. If the patient has been advised to use the call bell, and you find him out of bed without having called for assistance, document it. If a patient is told she needs to go to physician therapy three times a week and she only goes occasionally, it’s important to document her noncompliance.

  • Treat all patients the same — with professionalism, kindness, and sincerity, whether they are compliant or not.

"I’ve heard of patients who were truly injured as a result of physician or nurse negligence but who refused to sue because the clinician was kind to them. That is sometimes the tiny thread that prevents a lawsuit, " Nearhoof.

  • Treat everybody how you want to be treated no matter what, she advises.

For instance, just because you think a patient is malingering, that doesn’t mean you should become condescending or act inappropriately.