We often receive queries that indicate there is some confusion about the role of a regulatory body like the College versus an association like the CAMRT or Sonography Canada. Each type of organization performs different functions, but all activities are rooted in one important distinction: a regulator acts in the best interest of the public, while an association acts in the best interest of its members.
Health colleges and their core roles are established under the Health Professions Act (HPA) in Alberta. The HPA delegates regulatory responsibility to colleges and mandates that colleges be accountable to the government. Our college ensures Albertans receive safe, competent and ethical care from MRTs and ENPs by doing the following:
- Registering only qualified and competent technologists who meet the registration requirements
- Setting and enforcing practice and professional standards
- Ensuring MRTs and ENPs are of good character and reputation
- Administering a continuing competence program
- Investigating concerns brought forward by the public, patients and other healthcare professionals
- Supporting MRTs’ and ENPs’ understanding of their responsibilities as regulated professionals
Once a person has been admitted to a health profession, their governing college has an ongoing obligation to the public to ensure that its members remain competent and continue to meet professional and ethical standards. While associations may perform functions that support the mandate of public protection (e.g., issuing certification, providing continuing education opportunities), their focus is on the benefits for their members. MRTs and ENPs have to be members of the College to practice their profession; however, they may choose to be members of their associations.
The distinction between regulators and associations has become even more important now that Bill 46, the Health Statutes Amendments Act, 2020 (No. 2), has come into force. Bill 46 includes several amendments to the HPA, and one of the most relevant for our organization states that colleges will no longer be permitted to perform the functions of an association. This means the College has had to make a plan to discontinue membership services we currently provide.
With all the changes on the horizon, we would like to stress that while our mandate as a health college is to protect the public, members of the College also benefit from being part of a regulated profession. MRTs and ENPs participate in defining and maintaining standards of practice and professionalism within their chosen occupation, allowing for increased confidence in their professional abilities and competencies. Having a regulatory body to establish and administer standards for registration and practice protects the public from incompetent and unqualified practitioners, which in turn makes the profession more highly respected.
The following chart highlights some of the differences between the role of a regulator and the role of an association in Alberta.
|Aspect||Regulator (e.g., ACMDTT)||Association (e.g., CAMRT, Sonography Canada)|
|Mandate||Acts in the best interest of the public.||Acts in the interest of the members of a profession.|
|Accountability||Is accountable to the public through the provincial government.||Is accountable to its members.|
|Activities||Sets the scope of practice, Code of Ethics, Standards of Practice and entry-to-practice requirements legally defined by the Health Professions Act for the practice of a profession.||Serves and supports its members through education, advocacy, professional liability insurance and member benefits.|
|Registration vs. membership||Registers members based on legislated criteria. Membership is mandatory to practice.||Accepts members based on association determined criteria. Membership is voluntary.|
|Permit vs. certification||Issues permits, which are legally required to practice in the jurisdiction.||Issues certification, which encompasses criteria to enter into practice.|
|Qualifications||Sets registration requirements (education, experience, testing to verify competence to practice).||Creates and facilitates certification examinations.|
|Competency profiles||Approves or selects the competency profile(s) for a profession.||Maintains competency profile(s) for a profession.|
|Continuing education||Requires members to participate in legislated programs to ensure continuing competence.||Provides members with opportunities for continuing education.|
|Standards of practice vs. enhancement of practice||Sets legal standards of practice to ensure safe, competent and ethical service for the public.||Provides opportunities to augment competency for members seeking to expand their practice.|
|Protected titles vs. credentials||Establishes professional titles protected in legislation that inform the public of authorized practitioners — e.g., MRT(R), MRT(T), MRT(NM), MRT(MR), ENP, DMS. Practitioners must use these titles in their practice.||Issues credentials to those who have completed the certification (credential) requirements — e.g., RTR, RTT, RTNM, RTMR, RET, CRGS, CRCS, CRVS. Practitioners choose to use these titles in their practice.|
|Enforcement of standards||Has a legislated complaints and discipline processes in place to address complaints from the public and professional conduct issues.||Provides support to members through offering professional liability insurance (PLI).|
|Advocacy||Performs no overt advocacy work. It collaborates with government, professionals and the public to ensure safe, competent and ethical care.||Advocates for the profession in order to effect changes to service delivery, to develop specialty certificates and to increase public awareness of professional services.|