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, Uncategorized

Physician Delegation: Standing Orders

Under the laws of most states, physicians are permitted to delegate by means of standing orders to knowledgeable and competent medical assistants as long as the following conditions are met:

  1. The standing order is understood by the medical assistant
  2. The standing order is for a task that is delegable to medical assistants under the laws of the state, and the delegating physician is exercising the degree of supervision required by the laws of the state
  3. The standing order is applicable to all patients without exception
  4. The standing order does not require the medical assistant to exercise independent professional judgment, or to make clinical assessments, evaluations, or interpretations