Your Rights as a Medical Professional: The Law and Your Career
Medical professionals are in a tough spot. They devote their lives to helping people, but they don't always have the protection they need when something goes wrong. The law can be complicated, and medical professionals often feel at a loss when protecting themselves from lawsuits.
According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, medication errors account for most medical errors, resulting in serious harm to more than 1.5 million patients each year. This means that it isn't just doctors and nurses who order and administer medication that is liable for this type of action. Pharmacists could be accountable if they, too, are dispensing incorrect prescriptions if it is proven they were dispensing medication, knowing the dosage was incorrect from the prescribing physician.
This blog post will discuss your rights as a medical professional and how you can protect yourself. Additionally, we will go over some simple ways to keep yourself safe while working in the hospital or clinic setting.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is when a medical professional does not provide the care they should. It can happen during a surgical procedure when the wrong patient gets operated on. It can also occur when a doctor makes an error during the diagnosis or treatment.
The law protects healthcare providers from being sued for malpractice if they do their best to provide quality care for their patients. This means that if a patient were given correct information about their condition and the doctor's instructions, you wouldn't be at any risk of being sued for medical malpractice.
Why Is It Important to Protect Yourself?
So, why is it essential to protect yourself? In short, a medical malpractice suit can seriously damage your reputation or even end your career before you consider the effect this has on the patient.
While reports suggest that a third of medical malpractice suits are frivolous, meaning they are fraudulent or fake, two-thirds are because a patient deemed a doctor or healthcare professional made an error while giving them care.
It may be you did make a mistake, or simply it was something that was misconstrued. But to get to the bottom of the issue, you need to clear documentation to support everything that happened every step of the way to protect yourself and your reputation. Without this, it becomes a game of he said/ she said, and before you know it, you cannot recover from the damage a medical malpractice suit has caused even if you are cleared of any wrongdoing.
What Are Your Rights as a Medical Professional?
Medical professionals have rights that allow them to protect themselves from lawsuits, including the following:
- 1. You can't be held liable for anything you did or didn't do as a result of your training and experience.
- 2. You can avoid liability by being extremely cautious when it comes to providing advice, even if experts believe you are right in your decision
- 3. If a patient or their family sues you, you have the right to file counterclaims
- 4. You can report misconduct and unethical behavior
- 5. You can file complaints against other medical professionals
- 6. If you're disciplined by a state agency, like an occupational licensing board or hospital accreditation agency, then you can appeal the disciplinary actions
How Can You Protect Yourself from Lawsuits?
The reality is that you never know when you will come up against a situation that will result in a lawsuit against you. It can happen in any position, be it a doctor, nurse, pharmacist, physiotherapist, etc. You may not even realise an interaction has led to this course of action, so it can feel like protection is futile.
However, making sure you are acting appropriately and fully engaging with the patient can help you reduce the risk of a situation escalating.
Here are more ways you can protect yourself against complaints and medical malpractice.
- Keep personal information private and clear.
If someone knows where you live or where your children live, they may try to use this against you in court. It is best for doctors and nurses only to use their professional email addresses when corresponding with patients.
- Eliminate poor communication.
Make sure you are communicating directly and clearly so the patient can understand. This will help to avoid crossed wires regarding diagnosis and treatment plans. Bad communication can result in patients feeling like you don't care about them or their health. In recent years, medical malpractice suits have reduced due to clinicians taking the time to fully immerse themselves in the patient's experience and put them at ease with what is happening.
- Have insurance.
Having professional liability insurance is vital in many careers but more in a medical capacity. While the facility you work for might have insurance, personal insurance can further protect you and allow you access to the best legal defence on offer should the worst happen. From covering legal fees to loss of income and even cover against assault and violence in the workplace, having insurance can be a great form of protection should you find yourself in a lawsuit for any reason.
- Be courteous
Don't just deliver the information the patient needs to hear, be courteous when doing so, and make sure everyone involved in a patient's care does so too. Statistics show that when patients are treated with respect and kindness, the incidents of complaints against members of staff are reduced.
- Ongoing training.
A great way to protect yourself is ot make sure your skills and practices are up to date and the methods you use are fresh in your memory. Regular training using physical methods and researching new documentation can help you ot stay ahead of changes and get the training you need ot update what you do and how you do it. This should be followed through amongst your team or colleagues to ensure the same level of care and attention to detail across the board.
Simple Ways to Keep Yourself Safe at the Hospital or Clinic Setting
The first step to protecting yourself is understanding your rights. There are many things that medical professionals can do to protect themselves, but the first and most important thing is knowing what you're legally allowed to do and not do.
The best way to understand your legal rights is by doing a little research on your own. Wherever you are working, make sure you know the rules regarding your behaviour and patient care and adhere to them at all times.
For example, if you come across an information sheet that states that doctors are not allowed to talk about their patients outside of the confines of the hospital or clinic setting, make sure you don't break this rule. You should also always avoid providing confidential information about patients.
Try to make sure those around you are also following procedures, and if you have any concerns ask for colleagues to act as witnesses for you so you have a third party should you require this in the event of malpractice.
Additionally, if you find yourself breaking any laws or rules at work, speak up! It's really important for medical professionals to know their legal rights as well as their responsibilities so they can help keep themselves safe from potential lawsuits.
It is always important to know your rights as a medical professional, in order to stay safe and protect yourself from potential lawsuits. The most important thing that you can do is to be aware of your surroundings and know who you are dealing with.