The State of Florida requires nurse practitioners to be covered by malpractice insurance, whether provided by an employer, such as a hospital or physician’s office, or by the individual nurse practitioner. The state does allow for exemptions, but those exemptions are strictly applied in cases where the nurse practitioner in question is not actively practicing in Florida, or the nurse practitioner does practice medicine in Florida but only as an employee of the state or federal government. Another allowable exemption from the requirement to be covered by malpractice insurance is for those nurse practitioners who do practice medicine in Florida, but only a limited basis as part of his or her responsibilities as a teacher at an accredited academic institution. Provided below is a link to the State of Florida’s Board of Nursing website that provides a link to the form that nurse practitioners seeking an exemption from the requirement to be covered by malpractice insurance must file with the state. Otherwise, the requirement stands.
There has been considerable debate within Florida regarding the level of responsibilities appropriate for nurse practitioners and registered nurses. Such categories of health care providers often act in the capacity of a physician with respect to prescribing certain medications and treating minor conditions, and Florida does allow nurse practitioners to have their own prescriptions pads. The state does, however, restrict the types of medications that nurse practitioners are allowed to prescribe, requiring that any prescription for a controlled substance be signed by the physician. By imposing such restrictions on the ability of nurse practitioners to conduct certain activities, the medical liability associated with such individuals is accordingly reduced. The bottom line, however, is that nurse practitioners in the State of Florida are required to be covered by malpractice insurance.
The advantages of requiring nurse practitioners to be covered by malpractice insurance are obvious. While the responsibilities of nurse practitioners are limited, they do nevertheless administer some level of medical care and, as such, can be liable for mistakes they make. Nobody likes to have to pay for insurance to cover errors committed in the course of their professional responsibilities, and coverage is often provided by the employing institution, but the risks of financial ruin associated with malpractice suits makes the requirement to be covered logical. As anyone who has ever been forced to defend him- or herself against baseless charges can attest, financial hardship can result from even successful legal proceedings, as lawyers’ fees can easily exceed the ability of an individual practitioner to pay for one’s defense, and can seriously undermine the financial viability of the employing institution. In short, the requirement for malpractice insurance is a prudent measure that protects underpaid medical care providers from financial ruin.
The disadvantage to the requirement for nurse practitioners to be covered by malpractice insurance is the financial burden associated with such protection. Because financial liability associated with losing a malpractice suit can be professionally ruinous – and reputational damage can also be catastrophic for the medical care provider – the cost of providing such insurance can, if not paid for by the employer, or only partially paid-for by the employer, be exceptionally burdensome on these professionals. In cases where nurse practitioners have their own malpractice insurance, the premiums can be more than a little painful for this profession that exists on the lower end of the health care world’s socioeconomic spectrum. In cases where the malpractice insurance is provided by the employer, the costs of those premiums will have to be passed on to the consumer, which drives up health care costs.