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Not My Job: The legal perspective on updating job descriptions

As a nurse manager, how often do you review the duties and responsibilities laid out in your staff job descriptions? The human resources department may “own” the files, but you probably review them when you have an open position. From a legal perspective, though, job descriptions deserve more regular scrutiny to ensure that duties align with your organization’s policies and procedures, and meet the standard of care.

For example, if new procedures have been introduced, staff must be trained, checklist2competencies documented, and job descriptions updated to support the revised standard of care. In the event of a patient injury, one of the first things the patient’s attorney will do is look for gaps in the standard of care, so you must be proactive in this area.

Dinah Brothers, RN, JD, suggests that, at a minimum, you review your staff’s job descriptions once a year. In addition, you must revise your staff’s job descriptions whenever any one of the following occurs:

  1. When there are professionally recognized changes to the standard of care
  2. When new medical advancements are accepted and implemented at your facility
  3. When new technology is implemented in your facility
  4. When policies and procedures change in your facility that impact the nurse’s role and/or job responsibilities change

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