LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize the key elements of professional practice.

Each member of the healthcare team has specific responsibilities and limitations that define his area of practice. To fulfill your role as a member of the healthcare team, it is imperative that your practice be based on a sound body of knowledge and the development of well-defined technical skills. And as a member of the healthcare team, the mechanism of on-the-job training, in-service classes, and continuing education programs contribute significantly to your continued growth in both healthcare knowledge and skills.


In conjunction with their professional responsibilities, all healthcare providers should realize that they are subject to certain limitations in providing healthcare services. These standards of practice are based on the amount and kind of education, training, experience, local regulations, and guidelines possessed by the healthcare provider. The mature, responsible individual will recognize, accept, and demand that these limitations be respected. In clinical settings, medical technicians are tasked with administering medication, performing treatments, and providing individual patient care in compliance with the orders of the senior healthcare provider. In the hospital and some clinical environments, a Nurse Corps officer divides and delegates portions of the patientís care to other members of the team based on the skills and experiences of each member. In situations where a Nurse Corps officer is not a member of the team, such delegation of duties will generally be made by an experienced chief petty officer or a senior petty officer of the Hospital Corps.


Regardless of education, administrative position, job title, or professional memberships, all members of the healthcare team are held accountable for their performance. Being accountable means being held responsible for your actions. As a healthcare provider, you should continue to acquire new knowledge and skills and to strive for clinical competency. Equally important is your ability to apply new knowledge and acquired skills as a competent professional in providing total healthcare.

Accountability becomes a critical issue when determining issues of malpractice. Malpractice occurs when an individual delivers improper care because of negligence or practicing outside of his area of expertise. Because the areas of expertise and responsibility in medicine frequently overlap, legal limits of practice are defined by each state. The assignments and responsibilities of medical technicians frequently include areas of practice usually provided by physicians and nurses in the civilian sector. These responsibilities are only legal when medical technicians are performing such duties while under the authority of the United States Government. Because of this requirement, it is vital that you thoroughly understand your legal rights and limitations when providing patient care services both in government and civilian sectors.


Another area that has potential medical and legal implications regarding your role as a healthcare provider is that of giving advice or opinions. As a result of your frequent and close contact with patients, you will often be asked your opinion of the care or the proposed care a patient is undergoing. Often, these questions are extremely difficult to respond to, regardless of who the healthcare provider is. No one is ever totally prepared or has so much wisdom that he can respond spontaneously in such situations. In such cases, it is best to refer the question to the nurse or physician responsible for the patientís care.

You must always be conscious that you are seen as a representative of the healthcare system by the recipients of your care. As such, you will be accorded the respect that goes with having a specialized body of knowledge and an inventory of unique skills. A caduceus on the sleeve of the medical technician marks that person as a member of a prestigious corps worthy of respect.


Remember, you have been charged to provide care to a total, feeling, human person. The person seeking healthcare service has the same needs for security, safety, love, respect, and self-fulfillment as everyone else. When something threatens the soundness of the body, mind, or spirit, an individual may behave inappropriately. Occasionally, there are temper outbursts, episodes of pouting, sarcastic remarks, unreasonable demands, or other inappropriate responses, often to the point of disruptive behavior. The healthcare provider is challenged to look beyond the behavior being displayed to identify the underlying stress and to attempt to relieve the immediate and obvious source of anxiety. This may be as simple as communicating, through your care and understanding of the patient as an individual.