Risk Managers and Legal Counsel: Ethical Enablers or Paid Paranoids?
In the last two decades, the risk management profession has become an integral and accepted, indeed an expected, component of complex health care organizations ( Harpster & Veach, 1990). Risk management departments and programs have proliferated during this time. The American Society for Healthcare Risk Management has become a major membership affiliate of the American Hospital Association (AHA). Specialized training and degree programs and certification opportunities are available for professional risk managers, most of whom have a nursing or other clinical background.
As exemplified by another AHA affiliate, the American Academy of Hospital Attorneys (AAHA), legal counsel also have been fruitful and multiplied within most of today's health care organizations of significant size. The particularized respective roles of the risk manager and the in-house legal counsel vary substantially among different health care facilities and agencies, as does the relationship between these two functions. For purposes of this chapter, risk managers and in-house legal counsel will be lumped together on the basis of their common interest in protecting the health care provider against avoidable legal and/or financial loss. Thus, except where noted otherwise, use here of the term risk managers is intended to include in-house legal counsel as well.