PA practice, not unlike any professional practice, consists of what we know and what we think we know. Sometimes, what we know is outdated and anecdotal. The implementation of evidence-based practice (EBP) seeks to remedy this problem.
EBP is based upon studies and detailed evaluation of certain groups, their common complaint, the treatment rendered, and the qualified results. These studies illuminate multiple practice modalities and lead us on a road to generalized consistent outcomes. The process, although certainly not perfect, creates an understanding of approaches that are considered acceptable to a defined group of professionals. Perhaps they will dispel fantasies and practices that have been previously used but are "time-worn" and need to be changed for the good of our patients and for the safety of clinicians who may sustain litigation because of poor or unaccepted practices or treatment plans.
I want to invite you to focus on only one area, an area that can influence your future and that of your family. This area has the ability to keep you in a debtor situation for all of your professional life and, incredibly, most PAs are unaware of their vulnerability. Let's place the focus on our malpractice insurance and the need for personal liability insurance.
Every PA that I know of, at least in New York, is in some way involved in moonlighting. As a matter of fact, almost all PAs are moonlighting. If you are covered by an institutional or a practice supplied malpractice policy, are you covered to do moonlighting for other surgeons, physicians, or facilities? NO, you are not!
Is your present institutional or practice supplied policy predicated on a certain job description? Are you practicing outside of the description, therefore making you vulnerable? Have you personally read your malpractice policy and do you have a copy of it? Some employers say that one is purchased and the PA is too shy to request a copy, only to find out that they were uninsured throughout their employment or during a certain phase of their employment. Is your present insurance A.M. BEST rated as at least an "A"? Are you aware of the ratings and what is considered the best protection for you? Do you have all of the information about your policy, including an effective date, policy number, policy limits, and exclusions that will make you vulnerable? Have you read the small print? And most importantly, **does your name appear on the policy as an individual or are you part of a group and on a shared policy with your physicians? **My question to you is simply this: are you wearing a target on your back for a plaintiff's attorney?
Every PA has the opportunity to purchase Personal Liability Insurance. Sometimes this can be paid by the employer. In most cases, it may need to be paid by you, as the PA. Many of our colleagues are short-sighted as they feel that the cost of a policy exceeds their present needs and that this can be a future perspective cost for doing business. This attitude can be the biggest mistake that you make as a PA and can cause you personal ruin, attachment of your assets, and loss of employment. It can destroy your ability to get malpractice insurance in the future and, therefore, make you unhirable. A decision to forgo this necessary expense can cause you loss of sleep, loss of concentration, loss of self-confidence, loss of a reputation, and a long road of other personal pressures that will plague your life forever. Personal Liability Insurance is not an option; it is essential for practice!
When I was president of the AASPA from 1998-2000, I formed an ad hoc committee to explore liability insurance policies and to endorse them. We had five senior surgical PAs on that committee and we looked at four potential companies. As the current chairman of the Surgical Congress of the AAPA, I personally endorsed this policy to the presidents and boards of all of the other surgical specialty groups. I kept up on the need for insurance and served as a "free" source of knowledge to any PA, in any specialty, who wanted to know the facts concerning malpractice. Eventually, the AAPA took our lead and endorsed the same company, CM&F, because of its rating in the industry as well as its past integrity.
So, what have you done to insure your personal safety as well as that of your family? There is no decision that has the ability to meet your present and future needs more pressing than purchasing your Personal Liability Insurance policy. In a world of opinions and in a profession that has their personal opinions on this subject, don't be bogged down in the quagmire of outdated ideology. Look to the changes in the industry and data that has now met the standards of documentation. There is no better or greater service that a professional organization can deliver to their membership than the facts that can change their lives. I'm proud to be a part of this process.
Robert M. Blumm, MA, PA, PA-C is an author, national conference speaker, and suture workshop director. He is the former liaison for the American Association of Physician Assistants and the American College of Surgeons, as well as the past president for the Association of Plastic Surgery Physician Assistants. He is on the editorial board at Clinician1 and Advance for NPs and PAs.