Health care is a dynamic field, continually evolving with new technology, treatments and procedures which involve sophisticated patient care activities. This often results in overlapping functions of health care providers. Every state’s legislature statutorily defines the scope of practice of a licensed healthcare professional in each state which is compiled in the form of a practice act. Regulations affecting health care professionals can generally be found in the state’s public health code. The scope of practice for each profession is defined in the code, which lists tasks and responsibilities of each defined profession. Regulatory agencies and legislators are charged with consumer protection when deciding changes to health care professionals’ scope of practice. Changes in health care professionals’ scopes of practice should reflect each profession’s evolution of skills, training and education with the ultimate focus on patient safety.
A report by the Federation of State Medical Boards defined scope of practice as the “definition of the rules, the regulations and the boundaries within which a fully qualified practitioner with substantial and appropriate training, knowledge and experience may practice in a field of medicine or surgery, or other specifically defined field. Such practice is also governed by requirements for continuing education and professional accountability.”1 This definition incorporates the purpose of regulation, which, according to Schmitt and Shimberg is intended to:
1. “Ensure that the public is protected from unscrupulous, incompetent and unethical practitioners”;
2. Offer some assurance to the public that the regulated individual is competent to provide certain services in a safe and effective manner”; and
3. “Provide a means by which individuals who fail to comply with the profession’s standards can be disciplined, including revocation of their licenses.”2
The intended goal of any “scope of practice regulation” is public protection. This is accomplished by clearly defined rules, statutes and practice acts for each health care profession. Clearly defined scopes of practice will ultimately promote patient safety, competent providers and improve consumer access to care. Advances in technology, changes in health care demands and economic changes have caused overlapping scopes of practice within the health care professions. This overlap may potentially lead to disciplinary actions against licensed health care providers related to practicing outside the scope of their profession. As a health care professional it is important to understand the scope of practice for your profession overlaps with other professionals in a rapidly changing health care environment.
Chapman Law Group represents and advises health care providers throughout Michigan and Florida, including physicians, nurses, and all other licensed health care professionals who may be facing investigation or disciplinary actions. If you have questions related to the scope of practice for your profession or are being investigated related to practice issues, contact Chapman Law Group before your license is at risk. Our experienced health care law attorneys will guide you through the rapidly changing health care environment while protecting your license.
1. Assessing Scope of Practice in Health Care Delivery: Critical Questions in Assuring Public Access and Safety, Federation of State Medical Boards, 2005.
2. Demystifying Occupational and Professional Regulation: Answers to Questions You May Have Been Afraid to Ask , Schmitt, K and Shimberg , B., Council on Licensure , enforcement and Regulation, 1996