A Scope of Practice is used to describe the procedures, actions, and processes that a healthcare practitioner can carry out under their professional license. For Registered Nurses (RNs), the Nursing Scope of Practice outlines the various services that RNs are permitted to provide. This is usually based on an RN’s level of education, competency, and experience, as well as their state’s guidelines.
Across the United States, Registered Nurses are required to take the NCLEX-RN examination to demonstrate their competency. They are trained in subjects like physiology, anatomy, pharmacology, and patient assessment during their time in nursing school. As a result, the Registered Nurse Scope of Practice is similar across state borders, in terms of the level of work that nurses can perform. However, the details can vary by state, so it is important to understand your state’s RN Scope of Practice prior to launching your nursing career.
In Connecticut, for example, the Scope of Practice of a Registered Nurse is defined by the Connecticut General Assembly as the process of:
- Diagnosing human responses to actual or potential health problems
- Providing supportive and restorative care
- Health counseling and teaching
- Case finding and referral
- Collaborating in the implementation of the total health care regimen
- Executing medical regimen under the direction of a licensed physician, dentist, or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN).
What is the Purpose of the RN Scope of Practice?
The Registered Nurse Scope of Practice, in any state, is not solely to outline a nurse’s responsibilities. It is also designed to standardize what nurses can and cannot do from a legal standpoint. The RN Scope of Practice contains legal and ethical guidelines that Registered Nurses are held to as licensed practitioners. According to Registerednursing.org, once a Registered Nurse passes their state’s board examination, and accepts licensure in that state of work, he or she agrees to follow that state’s Scope of Practice.
This is actually designed to benefit and protect Registered Nurses, as they are legally covered by their state’s Scope of Practice and not by employers’ demands and job descriptions. No employer policy, request, or procedures can ask a Registered Nurse to step outside of their state’s RN Scope of Practice.
The RN Scope of Practice is a reflection of the state’s duty to protect nurses, as well as those who receive nursing care. In the field of medicine, it is vital to ensure safe and competent healthcare practice. For this reason, the Scope of Practice ensures that nurses can effectively provide care to patients in a safe, skilled manner – and holds nurses to this expectation.
Can a Nurse’s Scope of Practice Change Over Time?
Many RNs wonder if they will be bound to their Scope of Practice upon entering the field – Are there ways in which one could evolve and grow in their role?
The beauty of the nursing field is that there is constant room for growth and learning. Registered Nurses may choose to become specialized in a certain area of medicine. They may take up continuing education courses or on-the-job training in a specific, technical procedure. They may become a master in their specialty. As RNs evolve in their role, their Scope of Practice as a Registered Nurse can also expand.
For example, if an RN chooses to specialize in a certain area, such as neonatal nursing, there will be steps taken to evolve their Scope of Work and integrate their new skillsets in part with this specialty. The American Nurses Association, in conjunction with a specialty organization (such as the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses) will offer resources to promote the individual’s Scope of Practice. Additionally, if an RN chooses to earn certification in a specialty, they can expect their Scope of Practice to evolve. Each nursing certification has its own Scope of Practice that ensures competency in a new skillset, for which the RN will also be held to legally.
You do not have to earn specialized certifications to evolve your Scope of Practice, either. Between the time you enter the field of nursing, to several years down the road, your knowledge and skills will develop. You will learn new techniques that, perhaps, were not covered in nursing school. As an example, entry-level RNs are not typically trained to monitor patients with intraventricular devices, battling traumatic brain injuries. However, with exposure to this condition and technology, RNs can become skilled in helping patients with these devices, and start covering this under their Scope of Practice.
How to Become a Registered Nurse
Registered Nurses play an important role in our healthcare system, helping patients who are sick, injured, and disabled. They are who patients interact with most on a daily basis—assessing patient symptoms, monitoring their conditions, and coordinating treatment plans alongside a physician or APRN. On top of these core duties, RNs are also responsible for keeping patient records, administering medications and treatment, performing diagnostic tests, and educating patients and their loved ones on proper healthcare. Due to the range of services that nurses provide, they must be skilled and educated on all aspects of nursing practice.
An associate degree in Nursing is the standard requirement for Registered Nurses today. However, employers are increasingly seeking nurses with a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). If you are looking to dive into the workforce fast, and start helping patients in need, you can pursue an associate degree in Nursing, gain experience in the field, and go back to school for a fast-paced, online RN-to-BSN degree. This pathway can help ensure you get the most out of your education, and exceed expectations set in the Nurse’s Scope of Practice.
Are you ready to start practicing as a Registered Nurse? Contact Goodwin University to learn about our various nursing degree programs at the associate, bachelor’s, and even master’s degree level. You may call 800-889-3282 or visit us online to request more information.