Scope of Practice: Injuries

My rule of thumb on my posts is this: If I talk to more than 5 people about a topic in the same week, that means it’s worth blogging about.  So today’s issue relates to scope of practice (again) as it pertains to giving out advice about injuries.  Are you finding that you are being approached on a regular basis with questions related to aches, pains, and the like?  Then it’s time to think about how you are handling them.

Now, if you are an allied health professional working in a clinical setting with access to physicians, physical therapists, or primary care providers, then you are in a position to be handling these types of questions because you can consult or refer them to those qualified professionals.  But, unfortunately, many of us are approached in less than ideal settings and circumstances.  So, how should we go about handling questions related to injuries when we are not in that ideal situation?

My first line of defense is always to refer to primary care providers.  No questions asked.  There is just too big of a risk to yourself and the person to be making recommendations and guesses about what is going on – especially if we lack the education or professional credentials.  Even further, without access to a complete medical history, how could you possibly have a full understanding of the problem?  Keep in mind: if that person comes back with legal action based on your advice, what leg do you have to stand on?  What type of education, experience, certifications, or otherwise do you have to make those recommendations?

Staying within our scope of training and practice is necessary to ensure safety.  Just because someone approaches you with a question doesn’t necessarily mean you must have all of the answers right then and there. It’s far more professional to refer someone on to the appropriate resources than it is to take a stab in the dark or to make recommendations that may not even be safe or effective.  We cannot possibly know it all, or try to provide it all. If you find yourself doing this, it’s time to reconsider.  Developing and utilizing a strong professional network for referral is necessary to ensure the safety of your clients, participants, and/or patients.

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