Learn Info Before Legal Problems Occur

ED nurses shouldn't wait to be the subject of an investigation to become familiar with the hospital's risk management department, says Karen Jarboe, RN, CEN, CCRN, a legal nurse consultant specializing in emergency medicine and a senior clinical nurse with the adult ED at University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore.

"Make a simple phone call, and your risk manager will be happy to help. Part of their job is prevention and education," she says. "Ask your leadership to schedule a time for your risk manager to attend a staff meeting."

If a serious error occurs in the ED, Jarboe says that the ED nurse involved should contact risk management and follow their directions. "It's so much easier when they know right away," she says. "They can look at the chart and talk to anyone involved. It's much more difficult to backtrack years down the road."

ED nurses should find out the extent of their insurance coverage and the scope of that representation, recommends Jarboe."If you have individual malpractice insurance, call your carrier," she says. "If you are the subject of a state board of nursing investigation, you might find that you need to retain your own attorney."

A common misconception is that the hospital's risk management department will provide insurance coverage in all instances. While the hospital's risk management department will cover the hospital if an agency nurse makes a mistake, adds Jarboe, they will most likely not cover the agency nurse involved.

"Chances are, if you are volunteering or practicing in some way outside of your institution, your risk management department is not going to cover you," adds Jarboe.