The Nurse Practice Act
Have you read your Nurse Practice Act lately? Do you understand your Scope of Practice? The Nurse Practice Act is a set of laws which protect the public from harm. It defines the formal education needed for a particular level of nurse and sets the regulations for licensure.
Click here for info on YOUR STATE’S nurse practice act.
The NPA defines the nurse’s scope of practice based on the content of the formal education and level of nurse. It is different for an RN and an LPN/LVN. It is also different for a Nurse Pratitioner.
Know Your Scope of Practice
The Scope of Practice defines your role as a nurse for the locality where you are presently practicing. This can vary from one state or province to another. If you are a travel nurse, or are moving to a new state, you need to read and familiarize yourself with the NPA and Scope of Practice for that state or province before you begin work.
You may not use the excuse that you aren’t familiar with your scope of practice as it is part of your role as a nurse to know and understand it. The NPA and scope of practice can be changed as education requirements change. Read your NPA often and stay abreast of changes in your state or province.
Take note that just because you acquire a set of skills or knowledge base from experience or observation in the course of your job, it does not mean you may perform them without certain limitations. In addition to your NPA you also need to be familiar with your present job description and the rules of your facility.
For example, the NPA may state that RNs can give IV push medications, but if your facility says that all IV push medications are to be given only by a certain level RN or even a physician, then you are not allowed to give that medication if you don’t meet the criteria set by the facility.
Each state board of nursing in the U.S. develops the NPA for that state. You can find a link to each state’s board of nursing here.
Don’t Overstep Your Scope
You are also responsible not to overstep your scope of practice regardless of what your employer may ask of you. This can be especially important if you don’t work in a traditional healthcare setting. Even within a healthcare setting, employers are notorious for asking nurses to stretch beyond their scope of practice to perform duties which can be questionable. Your responsibility as a nurse is to protect the safety of your patients.
DO NO HARM
New nurses in particular can often be intimidated into performing skills that they have not performed before, or not been checked off on, because the unit is short staffed and there isn’t time to find a preceptor or supervisor to help you with the procedure. This is really unacceptable and nurses need to remember the first rule of all healthcare, DO NO HARM. Don’t perform something you have never done before without appropriate supervision!
If you are a travel nurse and your skills need to be checked off before you are able to perform a procedure independently be sure you do so.
By Kathy Quan RN BSN
Kathy is the author of The Everything New Nurse Book and author/owner of TheNursingSite.com.