Tuesday, February 22, 2005

True, or Not? A Medical Assistant Will Not Get Sued...

I am wondering, have you ever heard a similar statement from one of your colleagues: "A medical assistant can't get sued if something happens, because the doctor is responsible." Indeed, I have overheard this being said numerous times in the past, and I am always baffled by how widely spread and accepted this false belief seems to be!

Nothing could be further from the truth!

I am not sure; of those of us who attended law and ethics classes during our training, an integral part of the medical assisting curriculum, how many truly ever got a true grasp on the tort and negligence, and superior respondeat lessons. Nevertheless, one thing is undoubtedly true: although we, as medical assistants are dependent practitioners who work under the direct supervision of the physician, there ARE laws that affect us and we will all be held responsible for our own mistakes! We don’t have to cause severe injury to face a serious law suit as a consequence of our actions, or failure to act.

It is the law, that medical assistants when providing patient care have to remain within their limited scope of practice; if they don't, and a mistake happens that injures a patient, they may face a serious malpractice lawsuit, especially if it can be shown that they acted outside the professional norm, and their specific scope of practice!

The same rule applies to medical assistant students, who cannot, for example, blame their instructor, or the attending supervising nurse, if something goes wrong. Although every student must be taught and supervised properly, if a student causes harm to another person, then chances are good that the instructor, as well as the student will be named in the ensuing malpractice law suit, and both will be held responsible for their negligence and any mistakes.

Therefore, medical assistant volunteers, students on their externship, as well as practicing medical assistants, should carry their own professional malpractice and liability insurance rather than taking their education and experience for granted. After all, no matter how deeply caring and careful we are, mistakes CAN happen!

Learn how to evaluate your professional malpractice insurance policy! But first, if you care to leave a comment, please feel free to do so now.

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Hidden Pitfalls of Taking an Online Course

The success of health care professionals depends on their ability to stay abreast of the medical and scientific changes. With our modern society's busy schedules and fast lifestyles distance education over the Internet provides adult students with the convenience, flexibility, and the ability to study anywhere, any time without being on campus. Also, more and more students in remote areas are looking toward web-based courses to supplement or advance their education. However, just because a course is offered online and requires a fee to sign up doesn't automatically mean the program is accredited, even if the provider claims it is. Often, the certificate or diploma e-learners will receive upon successful completion of an online course is not even worth the paper it is printed on.

A Simple Word of Caution
The Internet serves as a great information resource and education portal, but at the same time, it also is the perfect breeding ground for different types of scams. It is important that potential students recognize this, and understand the difference between fully accredited vs. illegitimate and non-accredited programs. If not, then the e-learner might be in for a rude awakening in the end, when after successfully completing an online course they find out they have nothing to show, and are not permitted to sit for any national certification examinations.

Rule of thumb is: online courses are seldom accredited, or approved by the board of education unless they truly have met or exceed established national standards. The application process for reviews and approval is tedious and lengthy. Online training providers, non-traditional universities, and so called virtual colleges who offer distance learning programs have different accreditation standards than brick-and-mortar universities, colleges, and vocational training institutions. These institutions who went through the process and are approved will always have their program's accreditation status visibly posted on their website and online course catalogs.

What are the Courses to Look for?
E-learners should be careful to choose courses that meet their individual educational needs to ensure that they don't waste their money and time. Some just need a refresher course for personal and professional enhancement and a low cost, non-transferrable, non-accredited course will do just fine. Others may need proper vocational training to receive a much desired promotion, or to achieve specific educational goals that will allow them advance into a new position or career. Then it is vitally important that these individuals graduate from courses that are accredited not just by any, but by the right organization, such as, for example the U.S. Department of Education, Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP), Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES), or the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO).

But How Can You Tell the Difference?
Awareness is the Key! Web page advertisements that contain text, images, seals, and any profound sounding designations that a vocational training school and their programs are accredited containing words such as approved, accredited, accreditation pending, authorized, chartered, licensed, empowered, sponsored, recognized, and registered should be critically examined to determine whether these claims are merely common catch phrases, or the assertions are legit. It is always prudent before joining any programs to get in touch with the provider of the courses to ask questions, and to also contact the accrediting organization to find out whether a program is truly legitimately accredited by them, and to confirm the quality of the online training courses.

What are your past experiences with online distance education courses? Please post your comments!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Reducing Distress in Children During Venipuncture

Put your heart in what you love!

When it comes to pediatric patients undergoing venipuncture, it should be every phlebotomist's top goal to reduce these children's fear, pain, and distress. Almost all children have a natural fear of needles, but studies show that age is a significant factor in how they behave, their level of distress, fear, and perception of pain.

When a child's level of distress in anticipation of the venipuncture procedure is on the rise, it can be a rather difficult task for the phlebotomist and parent to make the blood collection process go over smoothly! It should come as no surprise that the use of physical restraint, such as the child being placed on the parent's lap, and tightly held down, will only add fuel to the fire, and increase the child's negative response and psychological suffering.

Physically restraining a fearful child during the venipuncture procedure is in no way an ideal situation and could be a disaster in the making! Rather, when dealing with a fearful child, it is best to try to control fearful rejection and manage defensive behavior through parental coaching, distraction, and positive reinforcement.

Distraction during painful procedures were proven to serve as an effective means of intervention. Therefore, a considerate phlebotomist will proceed by incorporating gentle touch and speaking in a soft voice while coaching, distracting, and comforting the upset child. Toys and sounds can also be effective and practical means to reduce a child's fear, and this, in turn, will also ease the parent's anxiety. Parents should also be encouraged to participate in the preparation of the child in a meaningful manner. It has a positive impact on the child if the parent remains cool, calm, and collected, uses encouragement, positive reinforcement, and appropriate distraction techniques. The parent's location, i.e. where the parent is in the room in relation to the child, can also make a significant difference when it comes to gaining the child's trust and cooperation.

Interestingly, although the above mentioned is a very simple approach to greatly reduce a child's distress, and the parent's and phlebotomist's anxiety and stress during venipuncture, it is not always routinely used everywhere there is blood to be drawn! If you are among those phlebotomists who want to grow personally and professionally, and learn how to better handle such and other challenges related to drawing blood from children and adolescents visit NBCI PubMed!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.

Safe Communication with Non-English Speaking Patients?

Today I observed yet another very interesting situation. While I was seated with my son in our pediatrician's waiting area I noticed that some of the patients also waiting to be seen by the doctor on that day seemed to be of Hispanic descent. As waiting mothers and fathers and their children were interacting with eachother they were speaking in Spanish to eachother.

Since the Hispanic population here in our corner of New England is ever increasing, I was not particularly surprised. However, having been with this pediatricians group for years, and knowing that there isn't a single staff member in this office that's of Hispanic descent, I couldn't help but wonder how their medical office staff might be handling the ethical and legal obligations of adequate patient-doctor interaction and interpersonal communication with their Hispanic patients without a bilingual staff member or interpreter aboard.

This situation is by no means new to me. More and more Spanish speaking patients are being seen by our doctors due to the large number of Hispanic families. What's interesting is, that I once have worked for a physician who felt that it was the patient's responsibility to make sure they bring along their own interpreters, such as a family member, to translate during their appointments. In many cases this was another family member, often a child (!!!), a neighbor, or friend, which caused me to question whether this was risky not only for the physician, but equally for the patient as well.

Personally, I do not agree with such an approach. In my opinion, only a trained person that is proficient in interpersonal communication, and proper knowledge of the foreign language, medical terminology, and health care related issues should be utilized to communicate and translate between physician, patient, and medical office staff. Otherwise, when you allow an untrained person, such as a family member, friend, or neighbor to come in and translate during a medical interview, you accept the risk of communication errors during such ad hoc interpretation and a chance on breaching confidentiality laws.

I take proper interaction, precise communication with patients, and patient confidentiality very serious. Proper communication plays a key role in properly diagnosing, treating, and caring for patient's needs. If Spanish, or any other foreign language, is the preferred language, or only language, of a patient who is seen in a medical office, then not having a bilingual staff member, or a trained translator available puts everybody at risk, and possibly the patient into harm's way.

Granted, ultimately it is the physician's responsibility to properly communicate with the patiens, but we, as the medical assistants, are also affected by with this unique dilemma of not being able to meet our responsiblities toward the patients unless we can communicate with them properly, and maintain confidentiality. As responsible and concerned health care professionals we sould keep in mind that trained translators have ethical and legal responsibilities regarding the physician's obligations toward the patients, where as a patien's family member, friend, or neighbor doesn't. Therefore there should be no question in any physician's and medical office staff member's mind that having a bi-lingual staff member available to translate, or utilizing one of the many available professional medical translation services to communicate with non-English speaking patients is the safest policy, and simply the right thing to do!!!

How is this situation being handled in your medical office or clinic where you work? Please comment!

©2005 Advanced Medical Assistant Custom Web Design, LLC. All rights reserved.