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Cath Lab Tech Limits: What You Should Do When Asked to Perform a Procedure Beyond Your Scope of Care

Cath Lab Tech Limits

Cath Lab Tech Limits: What You Should Do When Asked to Perform a Procedure Beyond Your Scope of Care

By Lee Soren, contributor

Because of increasing cost-containment concerns and limited staffing and resources, healthcare practitioners today are facing the pressure to do more with less. Occasionally, this means cath lab technicians are asked to perform procedures that fall beyond the scope of their regular care responsibilities.

While these situations can range from awkward to outright dangerous, there are ways to safely handle requests that go beyond cath lab technician limits without jeopardizing your employment.

1. Understand your responsibilities

Before determining if the procedure you're being asked to perform is unusual or inappropriate, you should know what your job responsibilities are. Because job descriptions can vary from facility to facility and travel cath lab technicians may be learning new policies and procedures every few months, it's essential to understand from the start what's expected of you on each assignment. This can entail a discussion with your new supervisor or written documentation from the facility's human resources documentation.

Key responsibilities of cardiac catheterization laboratory technicians generally include:

  • Monitoring patients' vital signs during diagnostic tests and cardiac procedures, paying special attention to life-threatening changes
  • Assisting with cardiac catheterization and other noninvasive heart-health procedures
  • Operating and maintaining relevant equipment and technology, including EKG machines
  • Administrative work, such as scheduling appointments and compiling paperwork

2. Assess the situation

Particularly for lab technicians employed in hospitals, emergencies and other extreme situations can lead to requests to perform procedures that fall beyond your scope of care. While the pressure to jump right in and help may be overwhelming, it's vital to take a minute to assess the situation rather than jeopardize patient safety and, potentially, your own career.

Some requests that fall outside of your routine responsibilities may still land safely within your comfort zone and your ability to execute. If the attending physician asks you to operate familiar equipment during a less-familiar procedure, the request may be perfectly reasonable. You just need to make sure that it's a task you can comfortably execute without risk to patient safety or your own code of ethics.

In an emergency situation, such as a natural disaster or large-scale accident, where the appropriate staff is unavailable, you may ultimately have no choice but to assist in the procedure under a qualified physician's supervision.

3. Express your concerns and don't be afraid to say no

If the procedure is one you feel incapable of doing, speak up immediately. According to Forbes, it's imperative to say no to any request that violates laws or ethics. 

While it can be uncomfortable to refuse a request from a physician or supervisor, you should express your concerns in an assertive, reasonable manner. If you're a travel cath lab tech on a relatively new assignment, remember that staff physicians may not yet know your qualifications or limitations and may just need to learn the scope of care for which you're qualified.

In conversations with superiors, Forbes also recommends that you resist overexplaining. In a nonemergency situation, simply stating that the request falls outside the scope of your abilities and responsibilities and that you feel you can't safely and comfortably execute the task should suffice. Elaborate as necessary, based on the conversation and any questions your supervisor or attending physician may have.

To end the conversation on a positive note, this may be a great time to express an interest in continued learning or to ask for additional training.

4. Follow the chain of command

Unfortunately, not all issues can be resolved through a single conversation with the attending physician or your direct supervisor, and you may have to follow the chain of command. Most employers have open-door policies, which let you speak with members of upper management or human resources to express concerns or resolve issues without fear of repercussion.

5. Document the incident

You should always protect yourself in cases where you've been asked to perform a procedure beyond your scope of care, particularly if you've had no choice but to execute it. To do so, it's important to document the incident in writing in preparation for potential investigations.

Be sure to include:

  • A factual summary of the event that includes the date, time, location and the names of relevant patients, colleagues and physicians
  • Relevant correspondence, including memos or notes from the attending physician
  • Any other relevant documents, including photographs and eyewitness statements

As you continue to gain knowledge and on-the-job experience as a cath lab technician, you may have the opportunity to learn how to operate different types of equipment or assist physicians during new procedures.

Grow your career as a travel cath lab technician and search for your next assignment in Med Travelers' job database.

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