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The ABCs and FAQs of PLPs

Everything you need to know about PLP (but may have been afraid to ask)

Most nurses get Professional Liability Protection (PLP) to be compliant with the College of Nurses of Ontario requirements. Then, like most insurance policies, promptly forget about it.

And that’s as it should be – because no one should be in a situation where they do not have access to PLP coverage.

But the past few years have seen a rise in both claims and the fees required to defend those claims.

Most nurses tend to only think that we’re protecting ourselves from malpractice when the range of complaints is in fact far broader – from practice concerns from employers or workplace employees to complaints from patients or family members angry about their treatment.

With healthcare environments being more stressful – on all fronts, and complaints on the rise, the WeRPN team receives many questions from RPNs about PLP insurance – from the coverage required, to the process when a claim against you has been made. To help all RPNs understand the importance of coverage – and why supporting each other has never been more critical, a few scenarios are provided.

“I just got a new job and my employer offers coverage. What’s the difference between this and the insurance I receive under my WeRPN membership?”

A: WeRPN membership includes PLP coverage that extends well beyond the CNO mandates. It’s even more comprehensive than most employer-sponsored programs.

The big difference is that WeRPN’s PLP coverage includes legal expenses accrued in the course of a legal defence.

Nursing malpractice claims can be expensive to defend and can result in substantial damages awards or settlements.

In fact, the average legal cost to defend a disciplinary claim is approximately $8,800, and the frequency of claims continues to rise.

A nurse who doesn’t have this additional legal expense coverage would have to pay these expenses personally.

“I’m an RPN at a busy clinic in downtown Ottawa. The clinic is frequently understaffed and at maximum capacity. In addition to working full-time under difficult conditions and raising a young family, I recently lost my father so I decided to take a temporary leave of absence to grieve and rest.

With less income coming in, I’m looking to cut costs. So I’m thinking of not renewing my membership until I’m working again. Does this expose me to any risk?”

A: Even if you’re not actively working while on short-term or long-term disability or maternity leave, the CNO still considers you a ‘practicing nurse’ and requires you to have PLP coverage.

Delaying your renewal could cause a gap in PLP coverage, depending on when you return to work. WeRPN’s PLP program is occurrence-based and covers claims for incidents that occur while the coverage is in place. A gap puts you at risk of not being covered.

WeRPN offers flexible payment plans that allow you to manage expenses versus risking a gap in your PLP coverage. Just reach out to the WeRPN office to walk through the options.

“I’m an acute care nurse, working in a hospital. I received a subpoena to appear as a witness in a malpractice case against my colleague who’s been accused of a medication administration error.

I’m concerned about repercussions with my colleague and the unit. And I also don’t want my colleague’s behaviour to reflect on me.

To better understand my responsibilities as a witness, I would like to consult a lawyer before offering my testimony. But I understand that the lawyer fees will be costly and then I’ll need to miss shifts. Would I be eligible for support for these costs?”

A: Witness subpoenas occur in CNO investigations, with some investigations including multiple witnesses. WeRPN’s comprehensive PLP program provides coverage for expenses incurred when appearing as a witness in matters arising out of the Regulated Health Professional Act (1991) and any amending or superseding legislation or as a witness in an incident relating to his/her profession of nursing.

“I’ve worked in a long-term care facility in Hamilton for the past two years. I received a letter from the CNO informing me that a claim of professional misconduct has been filed against me by the family of one of my patients.

The letter contained a copy of the complaint as well as supporting materials. The patient’s adult daughter claims that I breached the patient’s confidentiality by providing information about the patient’s condition to another family member.

There are challenging family dynamics surrounding the patient’s treatment and care and I feel confident my conduct has been professional. But I’m anxious that I’ve received a complaint and I’m uncertain how to best defend myself. What are my next steps?”

A: Rest assured, you have 30 days to respond to the CNO’s letter, and your PLP insurance coverage that’s part of your WeRPN membership is there to cover you for this exact scenario.

Sadly, disciplinary claims like this are on the rise. With more patients and family members experiencing added stress and frustration within the health system, RPNs are often the ones shouldering those grievances regardless of how carefully they performed their job. But you are not alone and will be well supported as you defend against this claim.

We’re here for RPNs across the province.
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