© The Medical-Legal News 2007
By Dan Clifford, publisher
Healthcare providers often take great strides to protect patients and improve safety, but do they also focus on keeping their staffers up-to-date on legal liability? New medical and legal expert-run businesses show there may be a need for such training.
Pat Iyer, MSN, RN, LNCC, CLNI, a legal nurse consultant in New Jersey and president of the consulting firm Med League Support Services, Inc., has recently formed an educational company called Medical Legal Education, LLC. Iyer has partnered with Barbara Levin, BSN, RN, ONC, LNCC, and Mary Ann Shea, RN, JD, in the venture. The group held their first conference, titled “Nurse —Protect Yourself and Your Patient,” in mid-April in Missouri.
“Our audience may include nurses, legal nurse consultants and attorneys.” Iyer noted.
In a training venture of similar concept, Dr. Rob Campbell of Louisville has formed an exploratory group to offer on-site legal “crash courses” to clinical nurses to help make them aware of legal liability.
Campbell, a cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, has lined up a couple of customers that are hospitals. His plan is to teach hospital personnel how to prevent medical errors.
But the business of Iyer, Levin and Shea already is well out of the gate, however.
“We provided three programs in Missouri that were geared toward legal nurse consultants and clinical nurses. We taught them liability and safety issues. The content focused on how a nurse could protect himself or herself and the patient. We covered high-risk areas such as medication administration, both in terms of medical errors and legal hot water. We gave them an overview of the legal process.”
“We discussed the use of rapid response teams, the use of SBAR and efforts to reduce pressure ulcers. The program included many case studies, which the audience found captivating.”
Iyer added, “Nursing Service Organization (NSO), which insures nurses, gave us an educational grant for the seminars we did in Missouri.”
When asked whether the clinical nurses were familiar with their legal liabilities, Iyer said it depended on how aggressive their hospitals had been in implementing initiatives. “Half of all those in the group taught by MLE knew that their hospital had rapid response teams, but might not have known that the initiative came from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement. It is not critical that they know this, so long as they know how to activate the team and get the patient the help that’s needed when appropriate.”
All partners of MLE are past presidents of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consulting (AALNC). Shea is an attorney. Levin is a clinical scholar from Massachusetts General Hospital. Iyer runs an LNC firm in New Jersey. All partners have been extensively published. “It’s a unique blend of backgrounds,” said Iyer.
When asked about the demand for this type of educational and consulting business, Iyer replied, “We hope there’s a big demand. We are just getting our toe in the water.”
“There certainly is need for education. On the part of the staff nurse, there is a need to provide some reality-based information about the likelihood that a plaintiff attorney will accept a case. We discussed [in our last seminar] what the attorney considers when deciding to take or reject a case.”
With regard to the future, Iyer added, “Our expectation is that in the next phase of the company we expect to bring our group on-site. We can bring the program to the clinical nurses at their location.”
“Our first seminars were taught to clinical nurses, educators, some risk managers, LNCs and nurse practitioners. Another component of what we can offer is directed to LNCs. The three of us have many years of experience as LNCs, so we can offer a lot of experience to them. We also can put on seminars for AALNC chapter members in a particular geographic area.”
MLE will be teaching two 80-minute symposia in Japan in May at the International Council of Nurses. The first program they will be doing is a case study of a medical error, and the other will be how to teach, in non-traditional ways, how nurses can recognize a patient in distress. The theme of the conference is “Dealing with the Unexpected, Nurses on the Forefront.”
“The presentation is geared to the educator or nurse manager who is faced with the need to make sure that nurses are aware of these things, but cannot get them [nurses] together to sit in the classroom to teach them,” Iyer said.
“We are discussing using simulations, posters, computers or mentoring champions to reach people to teach them what to do to avoid the unexpected.”
Iyer said that the company had received “thousands of dollars” in initial funding from Johnson & Johnson in the form of a grant to be used for them to go to Japan.
“They [Johnson & Johnson] are very interested in the image of nursing and the prevention of medical errors. They underwrote the campaign to focus on nursing recruitment. Johnson & Johnson funded many advertisements making the public aware of the attractiveness of nursing.”
When asked about marketing, Iyer said that they had done a direct mailing. “We mailed a brochure and got the addresses of nurses in certain areas. We might later target hospital CEOs or DONs. We did do a second mailing to hospitals and nursing homes themselves.”
When asked how she and her team are different from other nursing education seminars, she replied, “We can see both sides of the story. We understand the liability perspective, having been involved for years with the legal system. We know the realities of what it takes for a successful lawsuit. We are current on what is occurring in patient safety. A risk manager might be able to teach this program, and would focus in on the patient safety aspects, but would not necessarily have gone through that whole legal process the way an expert witness or LNC has.”
When asked about audience reactions, Iyer said, “They [the Missouri nurses] were riveted. They were moaning and gasping. Case examples are fascinating to nurses, and horrifying at the same time. They get the message now.”
Iyer said that sometimes the nurses paid for the seminar, though sometimes their employers did. •
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