Many individuals get into healthcare professions with the aim to help others. No matter which role you choose within the industry, there will certainly be many advantages of doing this. However, as with any career, there are some downfalls as well. As you can imagine, working in healthcare carries massive responsibilities for the professionals involved. No matter the type of job you do in healthcare, you will always be responsible for people’s health, whether that is physical or mental.
Healthcare professionals often find themselves overworked and understaffed, which can lead to errors and patients complaining. In the worst case scenario, patients or their families decide to take legal action against a professional following treatment. This can result in serious consequences for you or the overall practice, therefore you should have an understanding of what this entails as well as how to avoid this from happening to you. This article will discuss how healthcare professionals can protect themselves from malpractice, so that you can prevent this situation.
Have a full understanding of policies
One of the best things you can do to protect yourself from a malpractice suit is by fully knowing the policies of your workplace. Many times, lawsuits come from professionals breaching their own policies due to a lack of knowledge of what they entail. Policies are essentially the rules in place that you must follow to ensure that you adhere to your role and responsibilities. These will have the patient’s best interest at heart, therefore if you follow policies strictly, it is unlikely any patient will be unhappy. Moreover, policies change constantly, therefore taking the time to revise the documents is a must.
Keep good record of the patients
Any job that involves working with people requires good record keeping. It can be difficult for healthcare professionals to ensure that everything is recorded and updated constantly, especially if you try to focus on physically seeing and spending time with the patient. However, it is fundamental that you do this as it will act as official evidence. If a patient is arguing that you have mistreated or medically neglected them, you can support yourself by having a clear record of the patient’s condition, treatment and any medical advice provided.
Invest in medical insurance
As we mentioned before, a job in healthcare carries a lot of responsibilities and with this comes a great risk too. Every professional in this role should have the appropriate medical insurance in place to protect themselves, their practice and any employees. Make sure to check with a range of medical malpractice insurance providers to find the insurance that suits you and your practice. Doing this can help you rest assured that you are protected whilst you put your focus on the patients and their care.
Consult with an attorney
It appears that no one really thinks about hiring an attorney until they are in the middle of a lawsuit case. Ideally, everyone should have a legal consultant at their disposal, so that they can obtain advice whenever they need it. Facing a malpractice suit can involve many negative emotions and be frightening for those who do not understand much about the law. If you do not know the legal system and attempt to resolve issues on your own, you may put yourself in a worse situation. Always consult with a lawyer before trying to come with solutions for a legal suit and let the experts handle the situation.
Build positive relationships with your patients
If you are working with someone, it is because they have ongoing health issues and this in itself may be difficult to deal with. Many times, patients feel that they are not treated correctly by medical professionals as they feel they are overworked and understaffed. To prevent this from happening, make sure to build positive relationships with your patients, even if you are only seeing them for a few minutes. The chances of a patient filing a malpractice suit are reduced when they have a good rapport with you.
Get a second opinion
Even though everyone expects those in healthcare to have all the answers right away, do not succumb to this pressure and do not panic if you do not have the answer. One of the main factors contributing to lawsuits is the wrong diagnosis or incorrect treatment provided. The best way to avoid this from happening to you is to be truthful to your patients and yourself and let them know that you will be asking for a second opinion.
Ask for help
Feeling the pressure due to the many demands of the job is absolutely normal, and any experienced health professional will tell you this. When you are under a lot of stress and feeling overwhelmed, you are more likely to make mistakes that result in legal action. This situation can be prevented simply by recognising that you need some support and asking for it when required.
Don’t neglect your professional development
You must understand that no matter how busy or intense your workload gets, you will need to continue focusing on your professional development throughout your career. You will need to prioritise attending additional courses and training that will help you keep up with any changes. Doing this ensures that you can continue to do a good job throughout your career.
Be transparent with your patients
Every patient will appreciate when you are fully transparent and honest with them. Medical professionals see so many patients that they can easily forget that patients are people, and they must treat them as such. Always remember that the patient must be a part of the recovery journey and be aware of any discussions and decisions. Having clear communication with your patients is vital to prevent misunderstandings. Allow the people you treat the space to comfortably ask questions and make the effort to give them as much information as possible. This is a smart move towards building a positive relationship with your patients as well as reducing the chances of a negative event resulting in a malpractice suit.
Working in healthcare can put you in a vulnerable position where patients accuse you of malpractice and medical neglect. You can prevent this situation by following the tips discussed above, which will advise you to protect yourself from malpractice suits.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.
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