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Nursing malpractice claims increase

Malpractice risks are on the rise for nurses, and some specialties are more vulnerable than others. (Photo: iStock)
Malpractice risks are on the rise for nurses, and some specialties are more vulnerable than others. (Photo: iStock)

A new report published by the Nurses Service Organization (NSO), a division of Aon Affinity and CNA, finds that malpractice claims against nurses are on the rise.

The report, "Nurse Professional Liability Exposures: 2015 Claim Report Update," said that more than $90 million was paid in nurses’ malpractice claims over a five-year period. The nurses included registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses.

According to the report, nurses trained outside of the United States are more likely to be involved in a claim than those trained in the U.S., however, the average paid indemnity for foreign-trained nurses is almost half of that paid for those trained domestically.

Interestingly, approximately 85% of the nurses who experienced a claim had been in practice for a minimum of 16 years, but those with the largest indemnity payments ($70,171) had only been practicing for three to five years.

“Together, NSO and CNA are dedicated to educating nurses on their risk exposures,” explained Michael Loughran, president of NSO. “The new report empowers nurses with insights into malpractice claims impacting their profession, and equips them with tools to help create a safe environment for nurses and their patients, which may result in more positive outcomes.”

In 2007, the average claims cost was $151,053. It rose to $161,501 in 2010, and reached $164,586 in 2015. The likelihood of a claim was roughly the same for both male and female nurses, although women constitute a much larger proportion of the nursing program. Male nurses tended to have a higher average paid indemnity at $55,175 vs. $38,570 for their female counterparts. The average paid indemnity was $35,702 for registered nurses, $78,368 for retired nurses, and $68,125 for licensed practical/vocational nurses.

Nurses with additional certifications who worked in high-risk areas were also more likely to be sued, particularly those working in the adult medical/surgical field (36.1%), aging services (16.4%) and home health/hospice (12.4%). The highest average paid indemnity was for nurses working in the aesthetics/cosmetics fields at $175,500. Obstetrics nurses’ indemnities averaged $141,661, and payments for nurses specializing in community/public health averaged $112,433.

Most of the malpractice claims involved the death of a patient and 41% of the medical malpractice suits occurred when the patient’s death was not the expected outcome for the treatment or disease. The average payment was $144,618 and of these claims, 25.5% were because of cardiopulmonary arrest (sudden, unexpected loss of the heart function), 13.6% were due to pressure ulcers, and 11.9% were due to bleeding or some type of hemorrhage.

Technology is an important aspect of nursing and the study found that those who had rapid access to clinical information at their place of employment had lower indemnity payments than those without access to the data.

The most frequent malpractice allegations involved treatment and care (45.9%), followed by improper assessment (15.7%).

Nurses who reported that patient notes were underused or not noticed had a higher level of claims (41.5%), but the average indemnity payments were similar to those for all of the survey respondents.

“By identifying causes of loss, sharing claim information and providing recommendations, this report is an invaluable resource to help increase patient safety by enhancing nurses’ knowledge and awareness of their risk exposures,” said Bruce Dmytrow, CNA’s vice president of healthcare. 

To view a full-size version of this graphic, click here.

Nurse malpractice graphic

(Source: Aon/CNA)

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