On the Job, Scope of Practice

Performing Unfamiliar Tasks

If you have ever been asked to perform a task unfamiliar to you, consider the following situation brought to my attention:

My physician-employer asked me to perform a task that I have never done and did not learn in my medical assisting program. I explained to my employer that I did not feel it was right for me to perform the task because I didn’t have any experience with it and did not feel competent doing the task. My physician-employer said that I should perform the task to the best of my ability and not worry because she would be legally liable if something went wrong and I would not be. Is this correct? Should I perform the task?

It is my legal opinion that medical assistants should not perform a task for which they are not knowledgeable and competent. This is one of the most important legal and ethical duties of medical assistants.

It is true that the delegating provider is responsible for any negligence of a medical assistant in performing a task delegated by the provider to the medical assistant. However, it is not correct that the medical assistant is not responsible legally for performing a task in a negligent manner.

The correct legal principle is that the delegating provider and the medical assistant are responsible under civil law for any negligence by a medical assistant. A medical assistant is under the legal duty of performing all tasks to a level of quality that is equal to or greater than the level of quality that a reasonably knowledgeable and competent medical assistant would exhibit in performing the task.

delegation, On the Job, Scope of Practice

Comments to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners

In the effort to protect patients in Montana from substandard medical assisting services, the Montana Society of Medical Assistants (MSMA) and the American Association of Medical Assistants (AAMA) wrote to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners on the proposed New Rule I “Medical Assistant—Delegation and Supervision.” Read the comments as well as an excerpt from the proposed new rules in the latest Public Affairs article. Access “Comments to the Montana Board of Medical Examiners” in the September/October 2018 issue of CMA Today on the AAMA website.

On the Job, Scope of Practice

Scope of Practice near State Borders

I received the following interesting question:

I’m struggling with a difficult question! I am the clinical operations director for a medical group located in Oregon near the Oregon-Washington border. We provide care to Oregon and Washington residents and employ several medical assistants. As you know, Washington law requires certain medical assistants to meet educational and credentialing requirements and to register with the Washington State Department of Health. There are no such requirements for medical assistants under Oregon law.

Do my medical assistants who assist providers treating Washington residents need to meet the medical assisting requirements of the Washington law? All our providers (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) are licensed in Oregon.

The following is my response:

Because you are located in Oregon and the providers are licensed under Oregon law, the governing law is that of Oregon. Therefore, your medical assistants are not required to meet the requirements and register with the Washington State Department of Health. It does not matter that some patients are residents of Washington.

However, if your medical group had another location in Washington, the medical assistants would have to meet the requirements of Washington law to work as medical assistants.

On the Job, Scope of Practice

Medical Assistants in Camping Settings

I recently received the following question:

I was wondering whether medical assistants in my state are eligible to become overnight camp health officers and whether we are allowed to give intramuscular and subcutaneous injections as needed. No health care provider would be physically present. However, one or more providers (e.g., physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants) would be available by phone.

Under the laws of your state, medical assistants are not permitted to serve as camp health officers when no licensed health care provider is present and immediately available. This is because health professionals in a camping setting may be called upon to deal with situations that require the making of immediate clinical assessment and evaluations and the exercise of independent clinical judgments. Medical assistants are not taught the knowledge and skills necessary to function in this capacity.

Medical assistants are permitted to assist licensed health care providers in a camping environment, however.

delegation, Scope of Practice

Duties and Delegation Abroad

I field many scope-of-practice questions in my work, some of which are highly specific to the individuals posing them. Others can be applied more broadly, however. These serve as interesting material to share with readers of this blog. The following is one such question I received recently.

I practice as a medical assistant in North Carolina. I routinely travel outside the country for medical missions. As a CMA (AAMA), when working under a physician licensed in another country, am I permitted to perform the same tasks that I am allowed to perform under North Carolina law?

I responded as follows:

Thank you for your most interesting question.  Your legal scope of practice would depend on the laws of the country in which you are working.  You would not necessarily be able to perform the same tasks you are delegated in North Carolina.

However, to take your question a step further, it is my legal opinion that—if a physician licensed in North Carolina also went on such a mission trip—the physician would be permitted to delegate to you the same tasks that he/she delegates to you under North Carolina law.  This same legal principle would apply to nurse practitioners and physician assistants licensed in North Carolina.

Note that the state in question here is largely interchangeable. Were the medical assistant and physician from Oklahoma, for example, the same legal principle would apply, only specific to Oklahoma law instead of North Carolina.