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5 legal tips allied health practitioners should know

Last week, I attended a wonderful course ran by the amazing Michelle French and Amanda Cullen.  The course covered the legal aspects of practice and is certainly a topic that we need to ensure we are aware of as practitioners.  There were many ‘ah-ha’ moments for me, even after being a therapist for many years, and also, many reminders about the things we need to consider when treating and writing reports for our clients.  A few tips to keep in mind:

1. Ensure you know and understand the code of ethics that apply to your profession – these are often found on the AHPRA website for those that are required to be registered, and also from our own professional associations.  These are a great guide for us and are the place people refer to when there may be a question of a practitioner veering from the code of ethics.

2. When writing a report, it is wiser not to write about the competence of another health professional as this does not always comply with the code of ethics for your profession. You may be called out for defamation.

3. As allied health practitioners, we have a duty of care to our clients, and this means that we do no harm to them.  This includes ensuring that we inform clients of risks that can occur from a particular treatment or the provision of equipment.  For example, providing written and verbal information regarding the risks of using a particular splint, provided to clients and caregivers, ensures that we are following our duty of care well.

4. To avoid any risks of being sued (and it can happen!), ensure you know the equipment well that you prescribe (what is it made of, how can it be repaired, what are the risks, how is it used, how can you teach the client, what is the warranty, etc.), and know the techniques you are applying in your interventions well.  If you are using assessments to guide your intervention, ensure you know their correct scoring steps and interpretation, their relevance to your client and whether they are current.

5. Remember, too, it is not a bad thing to admit when you don’t know something well, and offer to either find out or direct an individual onto someone who does know about that particular area.  For example, I am not a neck and shoulder guru by any means in my hand therapy career, and I always refer this on to the local physiotherapists who can provide a more detailed assessment than I could for my clients who have neck and shoulder pain.

Litigation is increasing over time and this blog was not written to scare anyone but as a reminder of the things we need to continue to ensure we are doing well moving forward.