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How to Protect Your Nursing License During the Pandemic

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With the coronavirus spreading far and wide across the U.S., nurses are getting squeezed on all sides. Depression, fatigue, and burnout are all on the rise as providers are being asked to do more with less, all of which can lead to clinical errors and unintentional mistakes.

The pandemic is also changing the face of healthcare. From telehealth to dealing with patients, you’re bound to encounter a range of new situations on the job, some of which may put your nursing license at risk. That’s why it’s important to familiarize yourself with the latest licensing guidelines and information. Learn how to protect your nursing license from liability claims during these unprecedented times.

Looking at the Trends

Nurses had to be vigilant about protecting their license even before the pandemic. The Nurses Service Organization (NSO) has just released the 2020 Nurse Practitioner Claim Report, which details the latest trends in healthcare professional liability.

Looking at the data, it’s clear that battling liability claims is getting more expensive. The average total incurred from professional liability claims in 2020 was $210,513, marking a 4% increase from the 2015 report. The average cost of defending allegations in license protection matters involving a nurse increased 33.7% compared to the 2015 report, and 58.9% compared to 2011.

Costs for professional liability claims that don’t result in an indemnity payment are going up as well. The total cost increased 14.6% annually, marking a much faster increase than the one that was reported between the 2015 and 2011 reports.

So, where are all these claims coming from?

Obstetrics came in with the highest average total incurred due to liability claims, according to the 2020 and 2015 reports of closed claims. Home care claims increased from 12.4% to over 20%, signaling increasing demand for home-based care.

Allegations related to treatment and care continue to be the most common. Death and pressure injuries are the two most common types of injuries, representing around half of closed claims. While professional conduct, scope of practice, and documentation allegations continue to make up the bulk of license protection board matters.

Protecting Your License on the Job

With staff shortages and increasing demand for healthcare services, nurses need to make sure they are adhering the latest guidelines in order to protect their license to practice.

Around 55% of license board matters result in some kind of action against a nurse’s license.

To give yourself more peace of mind on the job, the NSO recommends studying up on your state’s licensing guidelines and requirements. Make sure you understand the overall scope of your practice. Some nurses may be asked to do things outside of their scope of practice, experience, and training amid the ongoing public health crisis. If you are confronted with this kind of situation, the NSO says, “nurses should develop and implement proactive strategies to alleviate unsafe patient assignments.”

With more people accessing healthcare at home, it’s also important that nurses apply the same standards of practice to telehealth as they do for in-person treatment and care. The NSO has laid a number of risk management considerations for providers using telemedicine programs during the pandemic.

The pandemic has also led to fighting and tension between providers and their patients. New safety, isolation, and quarantine policies may lead to backlash from patients. Nurses should report any situation or encounter that makes them feel unsafe and familiarize themselves with the latest de-escalation strategies to avoid situations that can lead to liability claims.

Right now, it seems as if the entire world is talking about COVID-19 and the providers working on the front lines but using social media can also be a potential legal minefield for nurses and other healthcare professionals. The NSO is urging all providers to use caution when posting information online to make sure they don’t violate their patient’s or colleagues’ right to privacy.

As an individual provider, consider investing in additional malpractice insurance to better protect your license on the job. Your employer’s coverage may not be enough to shield you from potential liability claims.

It’s also important to monitor the status of your nursing licence during the pandemic to make sure you are still in good standing with your state’s licensing board. Visit the National Council of State Boards of Nursing website for more information. Use their online tool, Nursys, to look up your license using the organization’s national database.

Between worrying about your own health, trying to keep your spirits up, and working non-stop, the last thing you should worry about is your nursing license. Use these tips to safeguard your ability to earn a living as you continue navigating this difficult situation.

Steven Briggs
Steven Briggs is a healthcare writer for Scrubs Magazine, hailing from Brooklyn, NY. With both of his parents working in the healthcare industry, Steven writes about the various issues and concerns facing the industry today.

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