Changes in Healthcare Professions' Scope of Practice: Legislative Considerations

National Center for Interprofessional Practice and Education's picture
Submitted by National Center... on Feb 27, 2015 - 11:48am CST

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This document is a result of a collaborative effort in 2006 by representatives from six healthcare regulatory organizations. It has been developed to assist legislators and regulatory bodies with making decisions about changes to healthcare professions’ scopes of practice.

This paper presents important issues for consideration by legislators and regulatory bodies when establishing or modifying a profession’s scope of practice. The primary focus of this paper is public protection. When defining a profession’s scope of practice, the goal of public protection can be realized when legislative and/or regulatory bodies include the following critical factors in their decision-making process:

  • Historical basis for the profession, especially the evolution of the profession advocating scope of practice change
  • Relationship of education and training of practitioners to scope of practice
  • Evidence related to how the new or revised scope of practice benefits the public
  • The capacity of the regulatory agency involved to effectively manage modifications to scope of practice changes.

Overlapping scopes of practice are a reality in a rapidly changing healthcare environment.

The criteria related to who is qualified to perform functions safely without risk of harm to the public are the only justifiable conditions for defining scopes of practice.

The purpose of this document is to provide information and guidance for legislative and regulatory agency decision making regarding changes in the scope of practice of healthcare professions. Specifically, the purpose is to:

  • Promote better consumer care across professions and competent providers
  • Improve access to care
  • Recognize the inevitability of overlapping scopes of practice

The authors envisioned this document as an additional resource to be used by state legislatures, healthcare professions and regulatory boards in preparing proposed changes to practice acts and briefing legislators regarding those changes, just as various professions’ model practice acts are used.

Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB)
Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT)
Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB)
National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT)
National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Inc. (NCSBN)
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)