6 Common Errors CRNAs Should Avoid in Their Profession

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) fulfill an essential role in healthcare, but with that responsibility comes risks and consequences when mistakes happen. In our guide, we’ll go over some of the most common errors from CRNAs in their profession that cause malpractice claims against them.

We’ll explain how these errors happen and offer some strategies on how CRNAs can avoid risk.

Do CRNAs Get Sued Often?

Before we get into the errors that may cause malpractice claims against CRNAs, we have to ask: do they get sued that often?

Yes. It isn’t uncommon to be named in a lawsuit as a nurse anesthetist.

CRNAs are not shielded from litigation and are the targets of malpractice claims if the patient determines an individual mistake from the CRNA caused their pain and suffering. CRNAs are the most frequently sued nursing specialty. The number of CRNAs as defendants has steadily grown over the years, and experts forecast the litigation to continue as the number of malpractice lawsuits grows.

Common CRNA Mistakes That Cause Malpractice Claims

While CRNAs are not always the focus of malpractice litigation, some individual mistakes can get traced back to errors from CRNAs. In cases of these mistakes, CRNAs can become the target of litigation and held responsible for a patient’s suffering or even expiration. With that in mind, here are some common CRNA mistakes to watch out for.

Communication Problems

A common theme in many malpractice claims against CRNAs is that a lack of communication between the patient, CRNA, and anesthesiologist resulted in improper or inadequate procedures. CRNAs often have multiple patients to monitor, and most require extra care—some are in the preassessment stage, some are getting prepped for anesthesia, and others are in post-op observation.

With so many patients to juggle, it’s easy for things to get missed, lost in translation, or forgotten entirely. A common example of a communication problem is when a CRNA or anesthesiologist conducts a pre-anesthetic evaluation but doesn’t discuss findings with the other parties, resulting in a faulty anesthesia plan that harms the patient.

Improper Positioning

Another common error that CRNAs must avoid in their profession is unsuitable patient positioning during anesthesia and operation. During a procedure involving anesthesia, it falls on the CRNA and physician to position the body safely and harmlessly—sometimes for many hours.

Anyone who’s taken a nap on a couch understands that if your positioning is off for too long, you can wake up with a sleepy arm or leg. In procedures, awkward positioning can cause more lasting nerve damage and even loss of motor function in some cases.

Dental Damage

One of the primary duties of many CRNAs is to intubate patients. Intubation involves inserting a tube into a patient’s throat to ensure an open airway for breathing throughout the operation.

CRNAs may do this procedure thousands of times over their career, which is often a mundane task—but there’s still possible damage to the patient. One of the most common malpractice claims against CRNAs revolves around dental damage during intubation, where the patient’s teeth were accidentally chipped, cracked, loosened, or even knocked out.

Insufficient Assessment & Evaluation

CRNAs are also often responsible for performing the anesthesia preassessment, evaluation, and obtaining the patient’s informed consent. During these duties, it’s not uncommon for mistakes to get made, like a part of the patient’s history gets missed or the patient feels they weren’t fully informed before the procedure.

It’s the patient’s right to have the procedure explained to them, along with who will be performing it and their qualifications. It’s also the patient’s right to ask that only an anesthesiologist perform specific duties instead of a CRNA. There have been malpractice claims where patients felt they weren’t duly informed of the procedure or that they could request an anesthesiologist to perform certain tasks—resulting in the CRNA getting targeted for omitting important information.

Documentation Errors

Paperwork is vital to the job of a CRNA and everyone working in the healthcare field. Unfortunately, insufficient documentation is a typical reason for mistakes and for patients to file malpractice suits against CRNAs and other personnel.

If a CRNA fails to sufficiently update a patient’s documentation—like a patient’s history, physician’s orders, or medication prescription—it can have dire consequences later. Without all information, anesthesiologists and other physicians might administer harmful medication to the patient or perform dangerous procedures, making the CRNA liable for not updating the documentation correctly.

Neglecting Observational Duties

Much of a CRNA’s job is monitoring patients before and after administering anesthesia. Often, this observation is only prudent, and the patient recuperates painlessly from the procedure and anesthesia.

But, as we mentioned, CRNAs are often responsible for monitoring multiple patients simultaneously, and some can fall through the cracks with dire consequences. Suppose a patient begins to experience complications from the surgery or anesthesia, but the CRNA fails to notify the physician or help the patient in time. In that case, it can lead to more severe health damage or even death. In those cases, an investigation could find the CRNA responsible as their duty was the observation of the patient.

Strategies for Decreasing Risk as a CRNA

What can CRNAs do to decrease these risks and errors on the job? CRNAs are only human, so mistakes are bound to happen, but there are ways to help avoid and mitigate these risks as much as possible.

Obtain Informed Consent

Informed consent is at the heart of many malpractice claims against CRNAs—patients feel they weren’t duly informed of the dangers or the qualifications of personnel performing them. So, informed consent is an essential part of the preassessment process for CRNAs.

Ensure that the patient fully understands the anesthesia plan and knows their rights as a patient before consenting.

Have Malpractice Insurance

As we’ve said, mistakes happen—but when they do, they don’t have to cost a CRNA their career or financial security. That’s why CRNA liability insurance is essential for every CRNA.

Without proper malpractice insurance, CRNAs can have their entire financial future and career turned upside down because of one mistake or perceived error.

Avoid Burnout

Burnout is among the most common problems for nurses in healthcare, even CRNAs. Medical professionals can experience burnout from working long hours under stressful conditions and an imbalanced personal and work life.

When CRNAs experience burnout, they’re more likely to make mistakes, so mental health and wellness are also essential for CRNAs. CRNAs should do their best to maintain a healthy personal life outside of work, get plenty of rest, or even seek mental health counseling if they think it could improve their mental state.

If you have any further questions about malpractice insurance, don’t hesitate to contact our expert staff at Baxter & Associates. We can help you get the protection you need.

6 Common Errors CRNAs Should Avoid in Their Profession

4 Things To Know Before Moonlighting as a Nurse Anesthetist

Moonlighting is common in health care, especially among nurse anesthetists. It can be an excellent way to expand your skillset and increase your earning potential. If you’re a nurse anesthetist considering a second job, you should know a few things before moonlighting.

It Comes with Risks

Any type of moonlighting in healthcare can increase stress levels for even experienced nurse anesthetists. While moonlighting can be an excellent opportunity to earn extra income and gain experience, there are also drawbacks. Whether you’re a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) or a janitor, working two jobs can take a physical and mental toll that comes with risks.

Working as a nurse anesthetist inherently comes with risks— a CRNA’s performance can directly affect a patient’s health. Mistakes as a CRNA can have significant consequences, which is why CRNA malpractice insurance is even more crucial for those who moonlight at a second job.

You May Need Additional Insurance

Finding moonlighting jobs can be as easy as reaching out to a recruiter or talking to a friend. As a nurse anesthetist, you should already have professional liability insurance, but before moonlighting, you should know that your existing policy doesn’t automatically cover your second job. As we said, moonlighting brings additional risks, and while some policies may also cover a second job, some may strictly disallow it.

Before you start or consider moonlighting, look over the fine print of your insurance policy regarding moonlighting. Sometimes, you may need additional coverage for your second job, which can eat into any extra income moonlighting provides.

There Are Different Kinds of Moonlighting

Some aren’t aware that there are different types of moonlighting—internal and external—and the distinction could determine whether your malpractice policy covers your second job or not. Internal moonlighting is when a person takes a second job within the same facility as their primary position.

External moonlighting, as you may guess, is when a person takes a second job outside their primary position’s location. Some professional liability policies cover internal moonlighting but not external, so check your policy before deciding to moonlight.

Not Everyone’s Cut Out for It

Before moonlighting, every nurse and worker should understand that not everyone can handle the responsibilities of multiple jobs. While moonlighting in nursing is pretty common, that doesn’t mean every nurse can or should do it.

Nursing itself is a challenging profession, so adding another job on top of it can be too much for many people. Before deciding to moonlight, consider its effect on your ability to perform your primary position, your personal life, and your mental and physical health.

We hope our guide has helped you better understand moonlighting as a nurse anesthetist and its implications. If you need malpractice insurance or have questions about a policy, contact our expert staff at Baxter & Associates.

The Importance of Tail Coverage and How It’ll Benefit You

Insurance has so many terms and policies that it can be challenging to understand them all. That’s why we create these helpful guides to give regular people a clearer understanding of essential insurance terms and information.

In this guide, we’ll look closely at tail coverage, its benefits, and how important it can be to many professions, from physicians to lawyers. Keep reading to learn more!

What Is Tail Coverage?

Tail coverage is an addition to an insurance policy that protects a business or individual from liability or loss. After the policy expires or is canceled, the policyholders can opt for tail coverage, which acts as an extension of the policy.

Tail coverage is not a separate policy but more of a temporary extension—providing the same protection and coverage of the original policy for an extended period. It’s a temporary solution to a momentary loss of coverage and is ideal for people transitioning from one policy or insurance provider to another.

Types of Tail Coverage

Tail coverage can add to many different policies and industries. While it’s widespread for medical malpractice insurance, many other types of policies can incorporate tail coverage, including:

  • Errors and omissions
  • Employment practices liability
  • Data breach insurance
  • Management liability
  • Professional liability

From small business owners to law firms and physicians, many professions and industries utilize tail coverage for insurance protection.

Tail Coverage & Claims-Made Policies

In many cases of professional liability insurance, policyholders have two choices: claims-made and occurrence-based policies. Tail coverage is only suitable for claims-made insurance policies.

A claims-made policy is insurance that covers the policyholder for claims reported while the policy is active. The incident or claim must occur after the active date of the coverage and before the expiration date. Tail coverage can extend this time frame even though the policy officially expires, so any claim or loss after the claims-made policy expires is still covered.

Do I Need Tail Coverage for Occurrence-Based Policies?

What about occurrence-based policies—do I need tail coverage for that? Occurrence-based policies are more comprehensive than claims-made as they protect the policyholder indefinitely for any claim or loss that occurs while the policy is active.

For instance, even if an individual’s occurrence-based policy expired three years ago but a claim arose for an incident five years ago—when the policy was active—the individual would be covered. Tail coverage isn’t paired with occurrence-based policies because it’s unnecessary—how long the policy is active is irrelevant because it covered any claims or incidents when it was active.

How Long Should Tail Coverage Last?

The length of tail coverage varies from individual to individual. For many, tail coverage is like gap insurance—temporarily providing coverage for a short period in an insurance transition phase.

For that reason, tail coverage can be as short as a few months or weeks. It’s not uncommon for tail coverage to last for years—mainly for retiring policyholders. Whatever the individual needs, there’s typically a tail coverage available that suits their requirements.

Is Tail Coverage Expensive?

How much should a person expect to pay for tail coverage? It’s difficult to speak generally about the price of tail coverage because every insurance provider and individual with different extenuating circumstances vary regarding the policy and cost.

Typically, tail coverage comes with a higher premium than the initial policy because it’s an add-on and temporary coverage. Most policyholders can expect tail coverage premiums to be between 100 and 300 percent of the original policy’s final premium. It’s more expensive, so most policyholders only use tail coverage for short periods.

Tail vs. Nose Coverage

You may also hear the term “nose” coverage in professional liability and other insurance policies—is that the same as tail coverage? No, nose coverage (also known as prior acts coverage) is like tail coverage in that it’s an addition to an original policy. Nose coverage applies to incidents when the policyholder was covered by a previously terminated policy from a different insurance provider.

Even if you’ve switched policies or insurance providers, nose coverage provides the same protection and benefits of the current policy retroactively to when a different provider insured you. Like tail coverage, it adds more protection to the individual, but it’s retroactive instead of the future.

Why You Need Tail Coverage

Why does someone need tail coverage with their insurance policy? There are many reasons to consider tail coverage, but the most common are individuals looking to fill a gap in coverage or professionals who have recently retired.

Gap Coverage

While it’s ideal for a professional in healthcare, law, or any other industry requiring professional liability insurance to have complete protection, gaps can occur. Some of the reasons there could be a gap in professional liability coverage include:

  • An individual who is part of a group work policy decides to change jobs
  • An individual in a group policy leaves for an individual policy
  • An individual goes from one group policy to another
  • A policyholder switches insurance providers
  • There’s a gap between an expired claims-made policy and a new one

Whatever the reason, there are many instances where a gap between an old and new policy can occur. For many professionals in industries with liability insurance—like malpractice insurance for healthcare professionals—any gap in coverage risks their financial security and career.

No professional who can be hit with a malpractice lawsuit wants to leave anything to chance, even if it’s only for a few days. That’s why many professionals need tail coverage.

Retirement Coverage

Another common reason for tail coverage is to stay protected into retirement. Some retirees schedule their policies to end when they retire, but there’s still the risk of a loss or malpractice claim against individuals after they retire.

Tail coverage provides retirees with peace of mind and adequate protection should they face a loss or litigation after they’ve left their profession.

Now, you should know a bit more about tail coverage, its importance, and how it can benefit you. If you are switching insurance policies or providers or are near retirement, consider tail coverage to ensure you’re not vulnerable in a transition period of claims-made policies.

If you have further questions about tail coverage or any other professional liability or malpractice insurance matters, don’t hesitate to call the experts at Baxter & Associates.

The Importance of Tail Coverage and How It’ll Benefit You