There are times when the role of regulator (which is what the College is) can be confusing, especially since the College started out as an association. The lines between association and regulator can sometimes become blurred when it comes to current issues, such as COVID-19 and paramedics receiving the mRNA vaccine. We have received many questions on what the College is doing to address these issues, and to answer them, it is important to understand the role of the College.

The College exists because of a direction from the Minister of Health through the Health Professions Act (HPA). The College’s role is to regulate members of the paramedic profession in the best interest of the public. Within the HPA, there are 31 other healthcare professions that are regulated under a regulatory college in Alberta, including nurses, dentists, chiropractors and physicians.

What does it mean to regulate members of the paramedic profession? The College serves the public interest by making sure all our regulated members achieve a standard level of education before they can legally practice, deliver care according to Standards of Practice and a Code of Ethics; as well as continue to develop their skills throughout their career. Our role as regulator is not to be an advocate or a voice for paramedics. Our role is to ensure that the highest level of patient care is upheld across the profession.

Much of what the College does is behind the scenes to ensure compliance with the Health Professions Act. This includes providing up to date registration information about members to the government, ensuring educational programs are teaching to set standards (and that those standards evolve as new techniques are developed), having a continuing competence program and operating a conduct department to investigate complaints. The best way the College can advocate for the profession is to continually demonstrate to the Minister of Health that paramedics deliver safe and effective care to Albertans.

So, who advocates on behalf of, or is the voice of, paramedics? For this, there are two other types of organizations: associations and unions, such as the Alberta Paramedic Association (APA) and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta (HSAA). Unions advocate publicly for their members’ interest on issues like negotiating work conditions with employers and requesting changes to legislation that the College has no jurisdiction over. Associations advocate more on topics that serve only member interests, and undertake activities like securing discounts for the profession or group rates with insurers. This is not to say that the College does not serve members, as very often, what is good for the public – educated, skilled, supported members – is also good for the regulated members of the College. In these matters, you will often see the College working with these other organizations. However, the work the College conducts is largely with the government and done internally before it becomes widely know to regulated members and the public.

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