The Scoop on Scope of Practice


It is very important for a Medical Assistant to internalize and realize the boundaries they need to respect in their scope of practice. This lesson is the third of four lessons from the project, "The Absolute "YES" and "NO" in caring for patients". This lesson aims to help Medical Assistant students in California to be clear about what they can and cannot do in order to bring their Physician's practice into compliance with California Medical Board law.


The Medical Assistant's (MA) scope of practice can be defined as a range of activities that they may or may not perform based on the law.

California law defines a medical assistant as "a person who may be unlicensed, who performs basic administrative, clerical and technical supportive services in compliance with this section...for a licensed physician and surgeon or a licensed podiatrist, or group thereof, for a medical or podiatry corporation, for a physician assistant, a nurse practitioner, or a nurse-midwife...or for a health care services plan, who is at least 18 years of age, and who has had at least the minimum amount of hours of appropriate training pursuant to standards established by the Division of Licensing. Also, specifically, medical assistants are prohibited from independently performing telephone triage and advice" (Source: California Business and Professions Code, Section 2069 b[1]).

The MA's tasks are delegated by the physician, this makes that physician responsible for the MA's actions. In applied medical legal terms, this is called "respondeat superior", meaning, “let the master answer." Although, it is the MA's employer/supervisor's responsibility to monitor and ensure that they are practicing within the standard of care, MA should be aware of federal and state health care legislation and regulations that apply to MA's scope of practice. This is for the MA's protection, as well as for the protection of patients and the medical practice itself. For example, if a medical assistant negligently or incompetently advises a patient, and the patient suffers an injury because they relied on the advice, the medical assistant and his employer could be sued.

In this lesson, students will explore three main categories of critical thinking methods:

  1. Lesson Introduction, "Introduction to Scope of Practice".
  2. Lesson Activity , the exploration of "The Scope of Practice and Standards of Care", and "Legal and Ethical Obligations within the Scope of Practice".
  3. Lesson Reflection, describes the "Value and implementation of the Scope of Practice", and then checks their comprehension through Summative Assessments.

Lesson Times

Intro to Scope of Practice
5 Minutes
Scope of Practice and Standards of Care
35 Minutes
Legal and ethical obligations within the Scope of Practice
40 Minutes
Valuing and practicing the medical assistant scope of practice
40 Minutes

Industries / Subjects / Grades

Industries / Pathways
  • Health Science and Medical Technology Health Science and Medical Technology
    • Patient Care
K-12 Subjects
  • Science
Grade Levels
  • 12
  • Adult

Standards and Objectives


Next Generation Science Standards (1)
California's 2013 CTE Standards (3)

Related Instructional Objectives (SWBAT...)

  • Demonstrate awareness of the consequences of not working within the legal scope of practice
  • Analyze and interpret the main ideas of the federal and state health care legislation and regulations and the background rationales
  • Share opinions and make personal responses of daily real life issues related to legal aspect of the scope of practice
  • Apply critical thinking skills on some medical lawsuit cases related to scope of practice

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