Nurse Practitioners & Medical Malpractice Concerns

Medical care is a complex arena, a mix of business and service, caring and profit. Mistakes cost more than dollars; they cost, or at least dramatically change, lives. Currently, medical care often involves many people, including several different levels of actual medical practitioners in addition to the management and business professionals involved in both the practice and insurance arenas. When a careless, reckless, or negligent mistake is made by a practitioner, whether that be a doctor or other medical professional, a medical malpractice claim may be appropriate. In this post, our Panama City medical malpractice attorney looks at a growing class of medical professionals, one that is responsible for an increasing share of patient service – nurse practitioners.

Florida Eyes Changes in Nurse Practitioner Role

As discussed in a recent report by WJHG, Florida has the nation's tightest restrictions on the work of nurse practitioners ("NPs"). These restrictions are being debated as the state (and nation) copes with a physician shortage. NPs hold a minimum of a Master's Degree, although many have a PhD in nursing, pharmacology, or other specialty fields. In Florida, NPs must have a doctor sign off on certain medication prescriptions and physician approval prior to performing procedures. This can be difficult since many doctors only sign such permissions one day a week. It is also expensive, with one doctor saying over $70,000 goes towards the signatures, even though the physicians never actually see the NP's patient.

State Representative Michelle Rehwinkel Vailinda is among those advocating for expanding the role and responsibilities of NPs in Florida. She describes it as an access issue, allowing Floridians access to quality and affordable care, and says that concern needs to come before any worry of a "turf war" between doctors and NPs. Opponents say expanding the role of NPs puts lives in jeopardy and would result in a drop in quality of care, reduced safety, and increased mortality rates. Many physicians fall somewhere in the middle, advocating for a team approach, but contesting the level of reform called for by certain legislators.

Nurse Practitioner Medical Malpractice Claims & Patient's Rights

The title of a 2009 article, summarized on the Medscape portal, says a lot on its own: "Malpractice Litigation Continues to Be of Concern to Nurse Practitioners." Its authors note a rise in malpractice claims against NPs, with claims doubling between 2004 and 2008 and an accompanying rise in the average amount paid to claimants. One of the factors cited as contributing to the increase is the growing autonomy of NPs nationwide. However, despite more restrictive laws, Florida saw more claims against NPs than any other state.

Allegations against NPs involved the following types of claims, starting with the most commonly alleged: failure to diagnose, failure to treat and/or monitor, and improper management/performance. Claimants included both patients who sustained major permanent injury and the families of patients who died due to the alleged malpractice, with the former group recovering a higher average damages award due to ongoing medical costs as well as pain and suffering.

Patients should be able to rely on their medical professionals. Medical care should leave you in better health, not worse. If malpractice by a nurse practitioner or other medical provider in the Panhandle region has left you injured/ailing, our Panama City nursing malpractice lawyer can help. Call today.

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