I would like to start this message off by thanking all of you who participated in the consultation process for our new Standards of Practice (Standards). This consultation is a key component of ensuring all stakeholder groups have a chance to review and suggest edits to how regulated members provide care and interact with patients and the public. Consultative feedback helps the College create the most comprehensive and clear document possible – to ensure not only regulated members understand their responsibility, but also to ensure the public understands the level of care to expect.
With the new set of Standards forthcoming, I thought it might be beneficial to do a quick review of what Standards are, what they aren’t and why they are important.
What Standards are:
First and foremost, the HPA requires the colleges of all regulated health professions to develop and implement a Code of Ethics and a set of Standards of Practice. The Code of Ethics sets out the basic ethical commitments that guides all regulated members of the paramedic profession in Alberta, while the Standards of Practice provide direction to follow in the course of a regulated member’s interactions with and provision of care to patients and the public. This includes measures that must be followed in the provision of care and the way in which regulated members interact with patients and the public (in a professional capacity). Standards provide the benchmark to which practitioners are measured and are monitored and enforced by the College’s conduct department. As members of a self-regulating profession, all paramedics and EMRs are personally responsible for adhering to the Standards.
What Standards aren’t:
Important to know is that Standards are not protocols and protocols are not Standards. This is often misunderstood as it can be difficult to distinguish.
A Standard lays out general expectations for the entirety of a paramedic or EMR’s practice. Standards must be followed in all practice settings and must be considered first – before protocols. If an activity is expressly not authorized in a Standard, no protocol can authorize a regulated member to perform it.
A protocol is a detailed plan of a medical treatment or procedure; a step-by-step method to guide a practitioner when providing a specific health service. Typically, these protocols are developed at the employer level and may differ from one practice setting to another. These protocols have authority within the employment setting; however, they may not extend to activities that are expressly not permitted in the Standards.
A quick note on protocols – the College does not develop nor approve employer protocols. As such the College does not enforce specific employer protocols, but would instead consider a breach of an employer protocol in context of the Standards of Practice to determine if the regulated member’s actions would be considered unprofessional conduct.
Why Standards are important and how to use them:
When the College receives complaints from the public, from members of other health professions or from our own members about the care provided to a patient, it is the Standards that will be used to determine if the practitioner delivered care appropriately. Our conduct department carefully reviews every formal complaint we receive, and if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the practitioner did not meet the Standard of Practice, an investigation will take place to determine if the practitioner has breached the threshold of unprofessional conduct.
It is important that all practitioners read and understand these Standards as this is the expectation the College has when it comes to providing care to Albertans. As we move to get the revised Standards approved, it is important to remember that as government legislation changes, you may see further revisions to this document as these changes occur.
Again, thank you to those who took the time to provide us with valuable feedback on the Standards. As soon as we receive the final feedback from our stakeholders in government, we will be able to finish the document and get it approved by Council. We are looking forward to being able to provide more clarity to regulated members, the public and our stakeholders on the expectations of care delivered by paramedic practitioners.
Tim A. Ford