of your own knowledge and skills, and to communicate to other team members the need for patient education in areas you are not personally qualified to undertake.
Each member of the health care team has certain responsibilities and limitations that define their area of practice. To fulfill your role as a member of the Hospital Corps within the context of the total mission of the Navy Medical Department, it is imperative that your practice be based on a sound body of knowledge and the development of well-defined technical skills. The rate training manuals are one mechanism that contribute to the development of your body of knowledge. The occupational standards define minimal technical skills required of hospital corpsmen at various levels in their career. Other members of the health care team through the mechanism of on-the-job training, inservice classes, and continuing education programs contribute significantly to your continued growth in both health care knowledge and skills.
In conjunction with their professional responsibilities, all health care providers must realize that they are subject to certain limitations in providing health care services. These limitations are based on amount and kind of education, training, experience, and local regulations and guidelines. It is the mature, responsible individual who recognizes, accepts, and demands that these limitations be respected. In clinical settings, hospital corpsmen are tasked with administering medication, performing treatments, and providing individual patient care in compliance with a physicians orders. In the hospital and some clinical environments, a Nurse Corps officer divides and delegates portions of the patients care to other members of the team based on the skills and experience of each. In situations where a Nurse Corps officer is not a member of the team, such delegation of duties will generally be made by a senior and experienced petty officer of the Hospital Corps.
Regardless of rank, rate, or corps membership, all members of the health care team are held accountable for their performance. Accountable means to be held answerable. As a health care provider, you must continue to acquire new knowledge and skills and strive for professional proficiency. Equally important is your ability to apply new knowledge and acquired skills as a helping professional in providing total health care.
Accountability becomes a critical issue when determining incidents of malpractice. Malpractice occurs when an individual delivers improper care due to negligence or practicing outside of his or her area of expertise. Because the areas of expertise and responsibility in medicine are frequently overlapping, legal limits of practice are defined by each state. The assignments and responsibilities of hospital corpsmen frequently include areas of practice usually provided by physicians and nurses in the civilian sector. These responsibilities are only legal when hospital corpsmen are performing such duties while under the authority of the United States Government. Because of this, 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 medicolegal implications regarding your role as health care provider consists 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. For the most part, these questions are extremely difficult to respond to, regardless of who the health care provider is. No one is ever totally prepared or has so much wisdom that they can respond spontaneously in such situation. In such cases, it is best to refer the question to the nurse or physician responsible for the patients care.
You must always be conscious that you are seen as a representative of Navy medicine 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 hospital corpsman marks that person as a member of a prestigious corps worthy of respect. How one responds to this respect will quickly determine whether the individual will continue to earn it.
Remember, you have been charged to provide care to a total, feeling, human person. The person seeking health care 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 frequently behaves 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 health care provider is challenged to look beyond the behavior being displayed to