By Christine Whitmarsh, RN, BSN
There were scattered groans and boos at the recent AMA conference in Chicago, when our usually popular president announced that he was not in favor of putting caps on malpractice insurance awards from lawsuits (his background is legal, not medical after all). The full realization of the liability involved in medicine – or in nursing in my case – hit me in the form of sticker shock, when I was presented with the premium, coverage, liability and other numbers associated with nursing malpractice insurance. I can barely fathom what doctors, Locum Tenens physicians and especially surgeons involved in high risk specialties, must contend with.
With the imminent shortage of physicians, particularly in family and general practice and in underserved rural areas, there are some who speculate as to how disciplinary actions taken against physicians could be a contributing factor to the shortage. The Wall Street Journal has reported that, between 2006 and 2008, 3 of every 1000 doctors found themselves on the receiving end of disciplinary action for wrongful acts such as medical errors and “unprofessional” behavior. States with the highest percentage of discipline for wrongful acts were Alaska, Kentucky and Ohio. States with the lowest rankings were Minnesota, South Carolina and Wisconsin.
The legal cycle of malpractice lawsuit notoriously drives the already high cost of health care even higher for patients, doctors, locum job holders, and insurers alike. Still, there are many locum tenens jobs available for physicians. Are lawyers possibly the only profiteers in medical malpractice cases (disclaimer; this and other questions like it are the opinion of the blogger and not Locum Tenens Agencies or this website)? As a physician, traveling physician or Locum Tenens physician what are your opinions on the relationship between President Obama’s recent comments on caps on malpractice lawsuits and the effect of malpractice litigation on the physician shortage in general?
Christine Whitmarsh is a Registered Nurse with a BSN from the University of Rhode Island. She is a freelance health journalist and medical writer and a contributor to Travel Nurse Source and Allied Travel Careers.