The scope of practice of an Allied Health Professional refers to the broad frameworks and context of allied health practice of the individual professions including: (1) the range of roles; (2) functions and responsibilities; and (3) decision making capacity which the professional performs in the context of their practice.
The scope of practice of an individual Allied Health Professional includes (1) education, training and development (in the widest sense); (2) authorisation to undertake scope of practice and
(3) competence to perform. An individual’s scope of practice is influenced by his/her education, knowledge, experience, currency (recentness of practice) and skills. The scope of practice of an individual may be more specifically defined than the scope of the profession. To practice within the full scope of practice of the profession may require the individual to update or expand their knowledge, skills and competence.
Advanced scope of practice is taken to mean an increase in clinical skills, reasoning, knowledge and experience so the practitioner is an expert working within the scope of traditional practice. Extended scope is seen to include expertise beyond the currently recognised scope of practice.
Most professional associations or regulatory bodies have document describing the scope of practice for the profession within Australia.
Scope of Practice in a Remote and Rural Context
As discussed on the Specialist Generalist page, Allied Health Professionals working in the remote and rural context have a broad scope of practice. There may also be specific circumstances (eg in rural or remote settings) where Allied Health Professionals are required to undertake activities or functions that are broader than is generally accepted as being within the scope of practice of their profession or outside of their own individual scope of practice, in order to meet the needs of the client/communities to which they provide a service.
In consideration of this, it is important you have a sound understanding of your professional and individual scope of practice. Whilst a task might be within scope of practice for your profession, it may not be within your individual scope of practice. This occurs more frequently for remote and rural Allied Health Professionals who are often required to work within the full scope of their profession, but may not have had the opportunity to develop and consolidate specific skills across such a broad range of practice areas.
In the team environment, it is important to have an understanding your own scope of practice as well as the scope of practice of other team members. This is particularly important when working with Allied Health Assistants. In delegating to tasks, it is critical you understand the scope of practice assistant in general, as well as the individual’s scope of practice.
Scope of Practice & You (Determining Your Scope of Practice)
Allied Health Professionals have responsibility to self assess, articulate and work within their own competence and scope of practice. Some useful questions to assist in determining if an activity/task is within your scope of practice include:
- Is it in the best interest of the patient?
- Is it within the scope of practice for your profession (legislative, professional association guideline documents)? Is it accepted practice within your profession?
- Is there organisational support (e.g. guidelines, within job description, management approval)
- Is it within my own scope of practice (Do I have education preparation and clinical practice? I am I competent and confident to perform the task safely?)
- Please refer to your relevant professional association or regulatory body for further information specific to your professional scope of practice.