Advances in technology provide practitioners many new and alternative avenues for patient care and treatment. Nurses never learn everything in nursing school, there simply isn’t enough time for one thing, and advances in care and treatment continue to evolve everyday. There are many more procedures nurses are allowed to do, but they must be adequately trained and judged competent to perform them. So how do we know what can nurses do?
First off, nurses need to know and follow their state’s Nurse Practice Act which defines the nurse’s scope of practice. These vary from state to state and some are updated more frequently than others. And second, the nurse needs to be judged competent by management in performing a task before performing it unsupervised and alone.
Many of the tasks nurses perform are learned on-the-job with proper training and supervision. The Internet also affords us lots of opportunities to observe and learn about new procedures, but appropriate hands-on training and supervision is still necessary. Nurses from the battlefields may have performed many life-saving procedures which are only allowed to be performed by physicians in hospitals. Don’t ever make assumptions.
Both steps must be met before a nurse can do that. According to a recent article on Medscape.com, [free membership required] it’s important to make sure both aspects of legality and competency are met to protect the patient as well as the nurse’s license.
“A nurse may be competent in performing a procedure, but may not have the legal authority to do it. A nurse may have the legal authority to perform a procedure but may not be competent to perform it. A nurse needs both legal authority and competence before performing a procedure on a patient.”
Do No Harm. Always consult your managers and look up your Nurse Practice Act. Remember too, what may be legal where you used to live and practice, might not be legal where you live and practice now.