Regulated health professions

Alberta regulates a number of health professions. The majority of these health professions are regulated by self governing colleges under the Health Professions Act (HPA). All regulated health professions will eventually come under the HPA.

The HPA was developed to regulate health professions using a model that allows for non-exclusive, overlapping scopes of practice. No single profession has exclusive ownership of a specific skill or health service and different professions may provide the same health services.

  • For example, physicians, dentists, optometrists and midwives are authorized to prescribe drugs within the scopes of their practices.

Restricted activities

Restricted activities are high risk activities performed as part of providing a health service that require specific competencies and skills to be carried out safely. Restricted activities are not linked to any particular health profession and a number of regulated health practitioners may perform a particular restricted activity.

Health professionals who have the competencies required perform a restricted activity safely and effectively are authorized to provide the restricted activity in their profession’s regulation. For example:

  • Administering a vaccine is a restricted activity. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, registered psychiatric nurses are all authorized to administer a vaccine under their governing regulations.
  • Ordering X-rays is another example of a restricted activity. Physicians, dentists, dental hygienists, denturists, nurse practitioners, and chiropractors are authorized to order X-rays. Respiratory therapists who have completed advanced training may be also authorized to order X-rays. Dental assistant may not order X-rays, but are authorized to administer them with in their scope of their practice.

Governance under the Health Professions Act

Under the HPA, health professions are organized into regulatory bodies called “colleges.” These colleges are delegated powers and authorities for self-governance. Regulatory colleges are not post-secondary institutions.

The HPA requires that colleges carry out governance responsibilities in a manner that protects and serves the public interest. Health profession colleges do this by:

  • Setting entry requirements (including required education, practical training, and examinations);
  • Identifying services provided by regulated members, setting standards for professional practice;
  • Setting continuing competency requirements; and
  • Investigating complaints about regulated members and imposing disciplinary actions if required.

Regulatory colleges are not professional associations. Professional associations usually operate to represent the interests of their members and to advance the profession.

Governance under other models and statutes

  • Acupuncturists and midwives are regulated under the Health Disciplines Act.
  • Acupuncturists are governed by a designated health discipline association called the College and Association of Acupuncturists of Alberta.
  • Midwives are governed by a designated health discipline association called the College of Midwives of Alberta.

Work is underway to bring these professions under the HPA, at which time these other statutes will be repealed.

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