Legal Aspects of Health Care Administration

In the practice of Health Care Administration, there is an organizational hierarchy that is followed. This organizational hierarchy dictates the way duties and responsibilities are spread out over the vast number of job descriptions available at the healthcare center.

Since these duties and responsibilities are given to specific healthcare providers and professionals, it is important that they all understand what the scope of their practice covers. Scope of practice, as defined by Joyce Mitchell and Lee Haroun in their textbook Introduction to Healthcare refers to a healthcare professional “understanding exactly what one is legally allowed to do in one’s profession.” Scope of practice defines the parameters by which a healthcare professional can perform certain procedures, actions, and details. Such duties are usually limited by the medical education and training that one receives both in the classroom and clinical experience. As such, the medical professional is expected to display a certain amount of competency as certified by the local state regulation exams and certifications.

The Healthcare Professions Council also defines scope of practice in terms of a statement of tasks.  “Scope of practice statements describe in general terms what a profession does and how it does it. On the other hand, reserved acts, defined as those “tasks and services involving a significant risk of harm,” need to be restricted, and may only be performed by professions to whom they are, on a non-exclusive basis, assigned, and so long as those performing them are acting within the scope of practice of their profession.” As such, the scope of practice can vary from state to state although the general essence of the law remains constant in order for the public to understand the governing regulations pertaining to scope of practice.

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It is highly important for each medical professional’s role to be defined and delegated to the right medical professional because of each function spells the difference between life and death for the client. Therefore, the healthcare administrator or Nurse Manager must, according to Helen A. Schaag, MSN, MA, RN, author of the paper on The Role of the Nurse Manager in Maintaining Quality and Managing Risk: (1) hold other RN team members accountable for appropriate delegation, and (2) hold team members accountable for the implementation of their delegated actions, provide the appropriate feedback to team members. The healthcare administrators assume all responsibility for tasks delegated to team members. Each team member must be allowed to perform his or her outlined task at any given opportunity, but within supervision of the healthcare administrator.

Once the scope of a medical practitioner’s practice is violated in any way, the said healthcare professional is liable for his actions. Let us not forget that the main responsibility of a healthcare professional is to “Do no harm”. This is why a healthcare professional must only function within the boundaries set by his scope of practice. The ultimate result of the act of overstepping the boundaries of one’s scope of responsibilities becomes legal in some instances.

Negligence is a case that stems from an incorrectly executed action, even if under supervision, by a person who is not legally allowed to perform such methods. Healthcare professionals train for years before being given a license to perform any procedures. Therefore, they are held in higher regard than someone who has not completed the same level of training is.

This act of negligence is commonly termed within the medical field as Malpractice. This implies a failure on the part of the medical professional to perform his duties within a certain mandated skill as displayed by persons of his training status. This usually results in injury, loss, or damage to the patient and his relatives.

In any organization, the employers carry command responsibility for the actions of their employees. In the medical field, this is termed as Respondent Superior. What this means according to Mitchell and Haroun, as excerpted from the book, Introduction to Healthcare is that, ” (1) A physician could be held liable for the consequences of a medical assistant administering the wrong medication, and (2) A patient suffering injuries from a fall caused by incompetence of a physical therapist assistant could be awarded damages (money to compensate for injury or loss). The supervising therapist could be financially responsible. “

Therefore, the scope of practice of a healthcare professional is non-transferable due to the various life threatening and legal implications that may arise from such actions.

Work Cited

Mitchell, Joyce and Haroun, Lee. 2005. Introduction to Healthcare. Singapore. Thomson-Delmar

Schaag, Helen A. 2001. The Role of the Nurse Manager in Maintaining Quality and Managing Risk. ANA Nurse Risking Management Services. Retrieved March 17, 2007 from http://nursingworld.org/mods/archive/mod311/cerm204.htm

Scope of Practice Review. Part I – Volume 1. July 21, 2005. Health Professions Council. Retrieved March 18, 2007 from http://www.healthservices.gov.bc.ca/leg/hpc/review/part-i/scope-review.html

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