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Do you know a good resource for answers concerning responsibilities that might be outside my scope of practice?

Monday March 26, 2012
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Dear Nancy,

I am an RN who works with several surgeons. One surgeon wants me to interpret mammogram results for the purpose of treatment planning and call the patient with instructions for follow-up in the office. Also, this surgeon expects me to call the patient with biopsy results, normal or abnormal, before the surgeon has reviewed them. I am concerned this may be outside my scope of practice. Do you know a good resource for these questions?


Nancy Brent replies:

Dear Frank,

Your best resource concerning the issue of scope of practice concerns is to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney who works with healthcare workers, including nurses. At first glance, these responsibilities seem unlike something an RN would be doing, but your state may allow for these kinds of responsibilities, as part of a nurse licensee's scope of practice.

If you were an advanced practice nurse, some of these responsibilities might clearly be part of your scope of practice. Again, this should be discussed with the attorney with whom you consult.

You did not indicate whether your area of nursing practice was med/surg nursing. If it is, another resource would be the Academy of Medical Surgical Nurses. The Association website, www.amsn.org, has a wealth of information, including publications. Its “Scope and Standards of Medical Surgical Nursing Practice” discusses this area of nursing practice in all settings.


Nancy J. Brent, RN, MS, JD, is an attorney in private practice in Wilmette, Ill. This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as legal or any other advice. The reader is encouraged to seek the advice of an attorney or other professional when an opinion is needed.