Regulation of health professionals in British Columbia enables patients and clients to have confidence in receiving care from regulated practitioners who have the appropriate training and skills to provide qualified, safe, and ethical care.

There are currently 18 health regulatory colleges established under BC’s Health Professions Act (HPA), which provides a framework for the self-regulation of health professions. Their mandate is to serve and protect the public.

In addition to the HPA and other relevant legislation, BC’s health regulatory colleges are also guided by the Health Professions General Regulation and specific regulations that guide each health profession.

Many social workers also practise within the health system. Social workers are a self-regulating profession governed by a regulatory college under the Social Workers Act. The BC College of Social Workers is also part of BC Health Regulators (BCHR) bringing the number of member colleges to 19.

Regulatory colleges

Regulatory colleges protect the public through regulation of their registrants. They do this by:

  • Determining entry-to-practice requirements;
  • Recognizing education programs;
  • Setting standards of practice;
  • Maintaining a searchable public register of registrants;
  • Administering quality assurance programs;
  • Administering annual registration renewal of registrants;
  • Managing a public complaints and professional discipline process; and
  • Conducting other regulatory practices.

The colleges’ mandate includes responding to complaints about care submitted by the public or other health care providers. Colleges have the power to take disciplinary action if a health professional’s practice is determined to be unsafe or unethical.

Colleges also protect specific professional titles, such as, “nurse”, “traditional Chinese medicine practitioner”, and “dentist”, by responding to complaints about unlawful practice and use of reserved titles by non-registrants. This helps the public recognize qualified professionals who have met the requirements to practise safely.

College leadership and governance

The Health Professions Act also determines the governance structure of all the colleges. Each college has a board that includes members of the profession (elected by peers), which is key to self-regulation, and at least two public representatives (appointed by the provincial government).

Boards oversee college activities and are accountable for how a college operates. Professional staff conduct the regulatory and administrative work of a college, with support from committees that include members of the profession and public representatives. There are specific committees for registration, quality insurance, inquiry (complaints) and discipline, finance and audit, governance, patient relations, and other aspects of regulation.

On August 27, 2020, the BC Ministry of Health announced a plan to modernize and strengthen the province’s health regulatory system. Find out more about regulatory modernization in BC, and read the latest news on how health profession regulators are evolving.