The most common function is consultative. Although it is not necessary that consultation be done via a medical staff committee, there is a widespread belief that records of a committee’s deliberations are not as easily discoverable in court when the committee is part of the medical staff. Such records are often felt to represent quality assurance activities and as such, are protected (except via certain Health Department reviews).
Ideally, committees doing consults should be free of external forces. Certainly administration committees may be excessively institution defensive, but medical staff committees run the risk of becoming a rubber stamp for the physician in any dispute. Perhaps the best protection against these risks is an objective independent chair.
In addition to consultation, most committees usually play some role in policy creation and inservice education as well. The placement of the committee within the organizational structure will provide access to be heard in both policy and educational matters. Access alone is necessary, but it is not sufficient. Certainly a committee can not influence policy if it is too far removed from the centers of power in administration or the medical staff. Likewise, it can not hope to influence attitudes and practices if it cannot provide inservice programs to the rank and file medical or nursing personnel.
Thus, access must be combined with personal credibility. Perhaps the most important factors in policy and educational matters are the credibility and stature of the individuals who comprise the committee. Credibility derives from both trust in the individuals, and respect for their knowledge. Selection of reputable individuals to sit on the committee enhance the stature of the committee and magnify its influence. The importance of member’s knowledge and expertise is also great since they must instill confidence that their statements are authoritative and accurate.