Imprint 2023 January | Page 25

Minimizing Risk as You Advance in Your Career

By Cynthia Saver and Georgia Reiner

You just landed your first nursing role . Congratulations ! Or perhaps you ’ re taking on a new leadership role , or shifting your career from bedside , hospital-based nursing to home care nursing because you ’ re ready for a new challenge . In any case , advancing your career , whether by taking a new role , a leadership position , or exploring a new specialty , can lead to enhanced job satisfaction and a bigger paycheck .

But career changes also can put you at greater legal risk as you take on more or new responsibilities . By understanding the potential for liability and taking steps to protect yourself , such as notifying your professional liability insurance provider when you have a change in role or responsibilities , you can reduce the risk of legal action as you advance in your career .
Liability , Role , and Specialty According to the 2020 CNA / NSO Nurse Professional Liability Exposure Claim Report : 4th Edition , the number and amount of professional liability ( aka “ medical malpractice ”) claims vary by role and by specialty . For example , the home care specialty , which includes hospice and palliative care , topped the list of the most common closed claims by specialty at 20.7 %, up from 12.4 % in the 2015 report ( CNA & NSO , 2020 ). It should be noted that this doesn ’ t necessarily mean home care nurses are more likely to be sued ; rather , the increase may reflect the overall trend of care shifting from hospital to home .
The report also noted that the highest average total incurred amount ( defined as the costs or financial obligations resulting from the resolution of claims , divided by the total number of closed claims ), was for obstetrics claims , likely because some of these cases can result in the need for the patient to receive extensive or even lifelong one-on-one nursing care . This was followed by post anesthesia care unit and behavioral health claims ( CNA & NSO , 2020 ).
Whether you ’ re taking on a new role or changing specialties , following some risk management strategies can help you mitigate the risks of a professional liability claim .
Becoming a Leader A nurse leader role can be rewarding as you mentor others and advocate for quality patient care . In addition to formal roles , such as charge nurse , nurse manager , and director of nursing , leaders also serve as educators and preceptors .
By taking on additional responsibilities , however , keep in mind that you have new legal risks . Lawsuits have named leaders based on their actions related to duties such as hiring and educating staff and making patient care assignments . The CNA / NSO report found that the greatest average total incurred amount for nurses in leadership roles was for those in correctional health , followed by those in the post anesthesia care unit and aging services . In fact , 38.7 % of closed claims were related to nurse leaders in aging services , while 32.3 % were related to care delivered in the patient ’ s home ( CNA & NSO , 2020 ).
As a new nurse leader , whether you ’ re mentoring or precepting new nurses or acting as charge nurse , be sure you understand the expectations for the role . Carefully review your job description and don ’ t be afraid to ask questions . Consider putting a plan in place to help you make a smooth transition ( Sherman , 2021 ).
Check your state ’ s nurse practice act and board of nursing position statements for any relevant information . A 2018 study found that some state boards of nursing had specific require-