Health Care Regulation in Canada
According to the Canada Health Act, health care services in Canada are the responsibility of the provincial and territorial governments. In order to protect the public, Canadian health professionals are carefully regulated. Each health profession also works within a scope of practice set out by their provincial Health Act or Opticians Act. The scope of practice explains what each health profession is legally qualified to do. Every licensed optician is responsible for understanding and following the Health Act or Opticians Act they practice under.
Provincial Health Acts
What is Self-Regulation?
Opticians are self-regulated in each province. This means that rather than the provincial government directly regulating opticians, they have given opticians the authority to regulate the profession. The government recognizes that opticians have the education, experience, skills and community organization to best govern their own members. Opticians have the specialized and expert knowledge to protect the public from risk of harm from services provided by opticians and to define the requirements for safe, ethical, and competent care.
Provincial Regulatory Bodies
Self-regulated professions are overseen by a professional regulatory body. The regulatory body’s purpose is to ensure that all individuals seeking entry to practice and maintaining registration are competent and ethical professionals. The responsibilities of the regulatory body include:
• Establishing registration requirements
• Setting and enforcing professional ethics
• Setting and enforcing standards of practice
• Assessing and recognizing optician education programs
• Addressing complaints about opticians through inquiry and discipline
• Establishing and monitoring quality assurance
There are 10 regulatory bodies for opticians in Canada; one for each province.
Prince Edward Island: firstname.lastname@example.org
Newfoundland and Labrador: E-Mail, Phone/Fax: 1-709-579-2605
Regulatory “College” or Educational “College”?
As you can see, optician regulators are often referred to as a “college” (Example: College of Opticians of British Columbia). Post-secondary schools in Canada may also be referred to as “colleges”. The terminology can be confusing, but it is important to understand the difference between the two types of colleges.
Here is an example from British Columbia:
College of Opticians of British Columbia is a regulatory college and governs professionals in BC.
Douglas College is an educational college and educates post-secondary students in BC.
Self-regulation also implies that each individual optician is responsible to ensure that the provision of care is safe and ethical at all times. Belonging to a health profession is a privilege. It signals to the public that they are seeing a licensed professional and will be receiving a certain quality of care. With the privilege of self-regulation comes responsibility to promote and support the profession.
Opticians make a commitment to continuing competency and lifelong learning. For example, opticians take learning courses online, attend conferences and seminars, establish study groups with their colleagues, and much more!
Opticians are also responsible for making sure all of their recommendations and actions are patient-centred. Effective communication between an optician and their patient is essential to provide the best care. Because Canada is a multi-ethnic country where words and phrases can have different meanings to different people, opticians often need to use different techniques to make sure each patient understands the services and/or products they are discussing.
Participating in the Profession
One way to participate in the profession is by volunteering with the regulatory body. Each regulatory body has a board of directors that is made up, in part, by volunteer opticians. Opticians can also participate in public relations projects such as making presentations to the community and participating in vision screening projects.
The annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic in Manitoba is a good example of volunteerism at work. Children take their Teddy Bears to the park where booths and tents have been set up to teach the children about health and safety by performing a professional service for their teddy bears. Opticians make eyeglasses for the bears using coloured pipe cleaners twisted into unique shapes.
Figure 1 2016 Teddy Bears’ Picnic Manitoba
Health Professions: Focusing on Patient Safety
The regulator and the health professional are partners in making sure that patient safety is achieved at all times. As health professionals, opticians provide vision care services that follow a standard of care for patient safety. A provincial standards document, available through each provincial regulatory body, outlines practice standards and directions. Directions and Standards are aligned with competencies for opticians. Provincial regulators work with opticians to develop these standards.
Provincial regulatory bodies also investigate questions or complaints patients have about the services or products they receive from the health professionals, like opticians. Each complaint is investigated to ensure that patient safety was prioritized at all times and that the health professional followed their standards.
The Vision Health Team
Opticians are one of the three health professions that are concerned with eyes and eye health. The other two “O’s” responsible for eyes are ophthalmologists, and optometrists. Why are there so many Op-somethings? Just like a nurse, a doctor, and a surgeon, each profession has different specializations, and different levels of study.
Opticians, ophthalmologists, and optometrists make up the vision health team, also known as the circle of care. Each member of the vision health team must be able to communicate at a professional level with other members of that team. Clear and effective communication among team members ensures each patient benefits from the expertise of all necessary contributors.