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Why you need to know your scope of practice


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Up until this past year, I have to admit, I had heard the term “scope of practice,” but I didn’t pay any attention to its importance. I knew it had something to do with me and my professional “responsibilities” and “duties” as a nurse, but if you asked me if something was within my “scope of practice,” I probably would not have been able to adequately answer the question.

While a nurse’s scope of practice is much more sensitive for the Advanced Practice Nurse (CRNP, CRNA, midwife, etc.), I’ve learned that the bedside nurse needs to have an equally sound working knowledge of this important concept.

I’ll keep it simple. Here is what one’s scope of practice boils down to:

Just because your employer says you can do it…can you?

Now, your employer could be the office or private practice you work for, the hospital system, administration, the physician/surgeon you work with, or maybe your charge nurse. I use the term “employer” loosely. I’m referring to anyone in your professional life that has some leadership responsibility.

In the end, the only entity that matters when it comes to one’s scope of practice is the licensing or certifying body that governs your professional license. For most registered nurses, that entity would be your state board of nursing.

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you act outside of your scope of practice in any environment, you ultimately are compromising patient safety. Oh, did I mention you also run the risk of losing your job, having your professional license revoked, and possibly being brought up on criminal charges that can include heavy monetary fines and incarceration?

Have I got your attention yet?

Have you heard of Amanda Trujillo? She’s a nurse in the state of Arizona who is fighting to keep her professional license over this very subject.

Do yourself a favor and never put yourself in the position of question when it comes to your scope of practice.

Just because you are educated and even trained to perform a certain skill, is it within your scope of practice? And I would highly advise you not to answer those questions with “I think so?” or “I’ve seen other nurses do it” or “So-and-so told me we could” or, worst yet, “It’s what we’ve always done.”

Know your rights. If you don’t know your rights, find out. Research and be able to locate where your rights are listed. The last time I checked, most boards of nursing have a website with links to this documentation, free of charge.

I don’t know about you, but I worked pretty hard for my professional license. I plan on keeping it.

Links of interest:

More on the Amanda Trujillo case:

American Nurses Association:

ANA Professional Standards:

Example Board of Nursing scope of practice: – 21.2.

ANA Nursing Practice:

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