00034_RT8By Joanne Kenna, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

Not a week goes by without a call coming into the firm from a nurse whose license is under investigation for some reason or another.  The nurse is generally dumbfounded that this has happened.  “But I’m a good nurse.  I never thought this could happen to me,” is the sad refrain.

Very often the nurse is correct.  He/she is a clinically good nurse.  Often there has never been any prior problem or any question of this.  But all it takes is one instance, just one violation that gets reported to the Department of Health (DOH), and the nurse is suddenly in the position of having his/her license investigated.  The nurse then has to defend his/her actions to protect the integrity of his/her license, and possibly even his/her ability to continue practicing, against the allegations of the violation.

Employer’s Insurance Coverage Protects the Employer, Not You.

Normally when a licensure investigation is initiated, the nurse is upset and angry, and is determined to do whatever is necessary to protect his/her license.  At this point the intelligent  nurse will usually start making telephone call(s) to seek legal advice and counsel.  Then comes the harsh reality.  Obtaining good legal services is expensive.  It can be very expensive.  Inevitably the question is put to the nurse as to whether he/she has insurance.  All too often the nurse responds that his/her insurance is (or more often at this point, was) through his/her employer.

Then more reality hits.   Often the nurse has already been terminated from employment by this point.  So, no insurance.  Even if the nurse is still employed, the nurse quickly finds out that the coverage he/she believed existed, and often was led by the employer to believe existed, is not really a policy for the nurse at all.  The nurse is “covered” under the hospital’s (you can substitute nursing home, clinic, etc., as applicable here) policy really only to protect the hospital’s interests.  Therefore, this “coverage” extends only to those situations and occurrences where the hospital might have liability.  (And even in that case the nurse should be wary because it is really the hospital’s interests that are being protected by the policy.   Where the nurse’s interests happen to be aligned with the hospital’s, all is good.  But where they are not, well, the hospital has coverage and its interests will be protected; as for the nurse, he/she is on his/her own).

What you should know is that the hospital’s insurance coverage is there to protect the hospital – – period.

Protect Your Nursing License with a Personal Professional Liability Insurance Policy.

You should also recognize that no nurse is immune from a professional liability claim.  No matter how conscientious and clinically competent the nurse may be, the potential for a professional licensure action always exists.   Day after day nurses forego legal representation when they are under licensure investigation because legal representation is unaffordable for them.  While some nurses get lucky and will have a good outcome in spite of this, many others will not.  The very idea of gambling with your nursing license that took so much effort to earn and is the key to your future earning capacity, is not only risky, it is downright foolish.

The truth of the matter is that all nurses should protect themselves by obtaining a personal professional liability insurance policy.  A good policy will provide medical malpractice and, very importantly, licensure protection coverage.  The cost on these policies varies, but it is generally quite affordable, often costing little more that $10 – $15 a month.

Licensure protection coverage provides the nurse with the ability to obtain competent legal representation from an attorney or a law firm that is familiar with handling licensure investigations and the disciplinary actions that can ensue from them.  Good policies will provide $10,000 – $25,000, and even more for legal expense.  Having this money available at the time it is needed allows the nurse to focus on his/her defense and provides the nurse the opportunity to pursue this defense all the way through the administrative process.  All too often the alternative is having the limited available funds dictate the nurse’s acceptance of an undesired resolution to the matter.

Be Smart, Get Professional Insurance Before it is Too Late.

So, if your independently wealthy, you can continue practicing without much concern about how you will be able to afford legal services for licensure defense if and when that becomes necessary.  If though you are not, and your answer to the question of whether you have insurance would be that you do through your employer, now is the time to start thinking about changing that.  Tomorrow just might be too late.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Nurses.

The Health Law Firm’s attorneys routinely represent nurses in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, in appearances before the Board of Nursing in licensing matters and in many other legal matters. We represent nurses across the U.S., and throughout Florida.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.


Do you have personal professional liability coverage? Are you thinking about getting it now? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Joanne Kenna is a nurse-attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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