Legal Memorandum: Medical Care by an Unlicensed Technician in CA

Issue: May an unlicensed medical equipment technician, while in a physician’s office, remove a rectal catheter from a patient at the request of a licensed physician?

Area of Law: Healthcare & Pharmaceutical Law Compliance
Keywords: Removal of rectal catheter; Unlicensed medical equipment technician; Delegation
Jurisdiction: California
Cited Cases: None
Cited Statutes: Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 2725(b)(1), § 2727(e), § 2725.3(a), § 2069
Date: 01/01/2007

California laws and regulations governing health care practitioners neither expressly prohibit nor allow the removal of a rectal catheter by an unlicensed person.  However, the laws governing nurses strongly suggest that it is a permitted practice.

The “practice of nursing” clearly includes the activity in question since it is generally defined, in part, as “[d]irect and indirect patient care services that ensure the safety, comfort, personal hygiene, and protection of patients; and the performance of disease prevention and restorative measures.”  Cal. Bus. & Prof. Code § 2725(b)(1) (2006).  Nonetheless, that set of laws expressly does not prohibit “[t]he performance by any person of such duties as required in the physical care of a patient and/or carrying out medical orders prescribed by a licensed physician; provided, such person shall not in any way assume to practice as a professional, registered, graduate or trained nurse.”  Id. § 2727(e).  Arguably, the technician’s performance here falls within that exception.

The legality of the technician’s actions is also inferentially supported by section 2725.3, which provides:

A health facility licensed [as an acute general care hospital, an acute psychiatric hospital or special hospital] shall not assign unlicensed personnel to perform nursing functions in lieu of a registered nurse and may not allow unlicensed personnel to perform functions under the direct clinical supervision of a registered nurse that require a substantial amount of scientific knowledge and technical skills, including, but not limited to, any of the following:


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