This blog post was written by my adorable husband, Ed Cogan (pictured here). We just celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary! Eddie is the reason my blog is called the “Relentless School Nurse”, he has called me relentless for the past 37 years. Hmmm, maybe that was not a compliment after all? Well, in addition to being my partner, the father of our twin daughters, and an all-around awesome human being, he is also an attorney. This week he is visiting the Relentless School Nurse with a special feature on malpractice insurance, his area of expertise.
“The Relentless Nurse and I have been married for 34 years. She really is relentless, in most areas of her life, especially in school nursing.
Briefly, I have been in the legal and insurance claims arena for almost 35 years, and for 20 of those handled healthcare-related malpractice suits both as a lawyer and in claims departments for insurance companies that cover hospitals and physicians.
But, first things first. Disclaimer Number One: This is not legal or insurance advice. I have hung-up my “legal gloves” and certainly am no expert in the field of nursing malpractice. In addition, different states have different laws. For specific questions, please contact your school board attorney and/or insurance company.
Disclaimer Number Two: I am not plugging any insurance company. And my reference to NSO below is strictly as a point of reference.
Do you ever grow tired of people telling you what a “great job” you have as a school nurse? How it “must be great” to have summers and all major holidays off? Do these well-meaning people think that all you do is hand out Band-Aids and ice packs to cute 5-year olds? – Ha!
I am not going to rehash all of the challenges that you encounter day in and day out. The truth is that conditions are ripe for you to face litigation or a complaint filed with the nursing board at least once in your lifetime. School districts are woefully understaffed when it comes to nurses, meaning you may be covering multiple buildings tending to children whose medical histories you only have passing familiarity. Under the best of circumstances, bad things happen, even when you have done the best that you can.
Fifteen million civil lawsuits are filed every year in the United States, which has 80% of the world’s lawyer population. Enough said… What does this mean? It means that the chances are fairly high that you will be embroiled in a school-related legal matter, no matter how conscientious you are, and hard you work. In addition, consumers (aggrieved patients and parents) regularly file complaints with state nursing boards every day, and the repercussions are real.
So, first things first. Are you insured against claims for school nursing malpractice? With almost complete certainty I can state that your school district’s policy will cover you. Under general legal principles, a school district is responsible for its nurses. But the devil is in the detail, and it is important for you to know how you are covered, and the terms and conditions of such coverage. If you are given a broad verbal representation that you are covered, ask for details – and proof. The protection afforded under such a policy or program may not be as broad as you think. Don’t be bashful. Ask for the information.
Next, confirm whether that insurance coverage provides a legal defense if there is a complaint filed with your state’s board of nursing – commonly known as a “Board Action.” Anyone that has gone through such a process will attest that it is one of the most unsettling experiences ever. While the overwhelming majority of complaints are resolved in favor of the healthcare providers, depending on the nature of the complaint, nursing boards can be brutal, mean, and vindictive. Nursing boards also have ample government resources behind them. You need legal representation, and that can be expensive. Not having Board Action coverage is akin to driving a vehicle without insurance.
If the school’s policy does not cover you for Board Actions, consider purchasing such coverage in the private market. The premiums are extremely reasonable and you will gain tremendous peace of mind. (See NSO.com). While I offer NSO as a good source for exploring insurance coverage, other than being involved in a couple of cases where they insured nurses that had been sued, I have no connection whatsoever to the NSO. If you Google “nursing malpractice” you will see a short list of companies that provide nursing insurance coverage. By the way, it is a complete myth that if you carry your own insurance coverage you are bound to be sued more often. Unless the attorney for the parent/child is a clairvoyant, he or she won’t know whether you have such separate coverage.
If invited back by The Relentless School Nurse, I will drill down a bit on trending insurance and legal matters impacting school nurses. If you have any specific topics you would like addressed, please let Relentless Robin know. She knows where I live.” – Ed Cogan, JD