As a nursing student, insurance is and will continue to be a vital element of my practice as a medical professional. Protection against the unknown, the uncertain, and often, the unavoidable is fundamental. Front-line health care workers are at a higher risk than the average person. Indeed, the first concept we are taught is that our safety comes first: “A broken hammer drives no nails.” One of the most important elements of self-care is having the appropriate level of insurance. Health insurance, temporary disability, life, and malpractice insurance policies help the most vulnerable practitioners avoid the dangers of the medical field.
Nursing professionals are at high risk for infection and disease. A quality health insurance plan is an absolute necessity. In my first year as a nursing student, I’ve treated (and witnessed fellow students treat) patients with AIDS, MRSA, VRSA, syphilis, Hepatitis-C, HPV, and tuberculosis – any of which would be a health crisis requiring time away from work to treat and recover. If any one of these were contracted while still a student, without an established job with benefits, the illness might very well end a career before it had a chance to begin. Strict adherence to personal protective equipment (PPE), sharps disposal, and aseptic technique is paramount for my safety and that of my patients. But these practices can fail. Should infection happen, I depend on my health insurance to help me receive the right treatment from the best professionals. If the very worst happens, and I contract an illness that is fatal, a solid life insurance policy will care for my family.
Physical disability, accidents, and repetitive motion injury are also prevalent in the medical field. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, hospitals in 2014 had 6.2 million work related injuries, with 2.5 million cases requiring time away from work. Around half are from physical injury. As a student nurse earlier this year, I experienced this first-hand. I was moving a patient, and even with proper assistance and technique, I managed to pull a lower back muscle. My patient was only a “90-lb. grandma,” and even with years of strength training and lifting experience, I still got injured. I was lucky in that I had a good week of vacation to recover. It still took close to six weeks to get back to full capability. Had I been a working RN with three or more 12-hour shifts a week to look forward to, my recovery would have been much slower and more problematic. Likewise, patients and their families may be hostile from grief, mental illness, or an altered mental state. Assaults can happen. Also, any injury involving an accident or repetitive motion to my hands would severely handicap my job performance. Even a small deficit in my ability to perform my duties can threaten my job quality and security. Disability can be denied, may take multiple (costly) hearings, and the payments are often inadequate. Years ago I worked on the administrative team for a disability lawyer. Being privy to the details of the patients he advocated for drove home the need for disability insurance outside of what the federal government offered. The road to getting back to work can often take weeks – time that is better spent healing, not fighting legal battles and bureaucracy.
There is also the unfortunate aspect of medical malpractice in health care. In 2015, 936 sentinel events, or potentially fatal mistakes made while providing health care, were recorded and investigated by the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Events like the “Wrong Surgical Site,” “Inpatient Drug Overdose,” and “Delay in Treatment” are some examples of things that should never happen in medical care, but do. Despite the great strides toward eliminating these kind of events, they can still occur. Sentinel events are not the only contributor to malpractice lawsuits; bedside manner can also have an effect. Patients who have a better relationship with their health care provider are more likely to have positive feelings about their care. A study conducted in 2000 revealed that malpractice litigation was more strongly correlated with the patient’s personal relationship with their health care provider than any other factor – more than the effectiveness of their treatment, or even damage done. There is an obvious ingredient of personal responsibility in how patients are treated, but even the most compassionate, patient, and professional individual often suffers at the misbehavior of their coworkers. Often, malpractice lawsuits don’t just target the offending doctor, nurse, or surgeon; the entire facility or department may be held accountable. For the innocent, malpractice insurance is a practical and necessary safeguard in a profession where your coworkers’ actions can drastically affect your livelihood. Malpractice insurance is essential to any health care provider today.
The medical field is an incredibly rewarding one, but it has unique challenges and hazards that require strict attention to detail and forethought. The peace of mind that comprehensive insurance policies can bring allow the work to be done with satisfaction, letting the unknowable be taken care of by its own field of professionals.
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