Alberta regulates a number of health professions. These health professions are regulated by self-governing regulatory colleges under the Health Professions Act (HPA).
The HPA was developed to regulate health professions in a way that allows for non-exclusive, overlapping scopes of practice. No single profession has exclusive ownership of a specific skill or health service, and different professions may provide the same health services. For example, physicians, nurse practitioners, dentists, optometrists and midwives are all authorized to prescribe drugs within the scopes of their practices.
The HPA Handbook simplifies the HPA for regulated health care professionals, employers and others. The Handbook summarizes various topics including the role of regulatory colleges, registration as a health professional, authority to provide restricted activities, use of protected titles, the complaints process, and continuing competency programs.
Read the HPA Handbook.
The HPA and 29 professional regulations were recently amended and a new Health Professions Restricted Activity Regulation (HPRAR) was created for a more effective and responsive regulatory system. Read more on these amendments and Bill 46 at Improving public health care.
Governance of health professions
Under the HPA, health professions are governed by regulatory bodies called colleges. These regulatory colleges have powers and authorities for self-governance. Regulatory colleges are not post-secondary institutions, they are legal entities responsible for serving the public interest by regulating health professions in Alberta.
There are 29 regulatory colleges in Alberta. Some colleges regulate a single profession, others regulate a number of professions.
The HPA requires that regulatory colleges carry out governance and regulatory responsibilities in a way that protects and serves the public interest. Regulatory colleges do this by developing, maintaining and enforcing professional regulations, standards of practice and codes of ethics.
An important responsibility of regulatory colleges is to investigate complaints about regulated members and impose disciplinary sanctions if appropriate. Regulatory colleges are not the same as professional associations, whose primary role is to advance the interests of health professions.
Recent changes to the HPA have required regulatory colleges to no longer carry out the functions of a professional association. This change ensures regulatory colleges always put patients and the public interest first. Professional associations still exist as separate entities and continue to promote and represent the interest of professionals.
Regulatory college councils
Councils are the governing bodies of the regulatory colleges. Their role is to manage and conduct their college’s activities on behalf of their members. Councils make professional regulations and bylaws, adopt standards of practice and codes of ethics, set registration and practice permit fees, appoint college officials, and hear reviews or appeals of registration decisions, practice permit renewal decisions and hearing decisions.
There are numerous ways to ensure public input and accountability in the governance of health professions under the HPA. One of the key provisions to support professional accountability is through public membership on college councils.
All college councils include public members to ensure the public is represented and Albertans’ views are taken into account. Public members have full voting status as members on a college council so the public has significant input into decisions of the profession.
The HPA requires 50% public member representation on college councils, complaint review committees and hearing tribunals. This gives Albertans a strong voice and a role in professional oversight.
Standards of practice and codes of ethics
The HPA requires that a regulatory college establish, maintain and enforce a code of ethics and standards of practice. These documents, which can be found on a regulatory college’s website, provide regulated health professions with a set of guidelines and principles to govern their professional behaviour and the provision of services.
If a regulated health professional’s conduct does not meet the expectations included in these documents, they may be subject to professional discipline.
Complaints or concerns
Having a regulatory college in place means regulated health professionals can be held accountable for care that could be deemed unacceptable or outside the scope of the profession. Albertans can go directly to a regulatory college and file a complaint. The regulatory college may then investigate a professional and determine what, if any, corrective or disciplinary action is required.
The HPA sets out the processes to be followed when handling complaints and discipline, and includes the principles of fairness, reasonableness and due process. Unprofessional conduct includes unskilled practice and professional or ethical misconduct, among other offences.
Options for addressing all complaints include informal communication and attempts to resolve conflicts, alternative complaint resolution processes, and hearings.
Restricted activities are high risk activities performed as part of providing a health service that require specific competencies and skills to be carried out safely. Restricted activities are not linked to any specific health profession and most regulated health professionals may perform a particular restricted activity.
Health professionals who have the competencies required to perform a restricted activity safely and effectively are authorized by the HPRAR to provide the restricted activity.
For example, administering a vaccine is a restricted activity. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, and other professions, are all authorized to administer a vaccine under their profession's regulations.
Ordering and applying ionizing radiation, such as X-rays, are both restricted activities. Various health professionals may be authorized to perform either or both, for example:
- physicians and dentists can both order and apply X-rays
- nurse practitioners and dental hygienists can order X-rays, but are not authorized to apply them
- radiological technologists and dental assistants can apply X-rays, but only in response to an order
- respiratory therapists who have completed advanced training may also be authorized to order X-rays
Psychosocial intervention interpretive guide
Some activities may be restricted under certain circumstances. For example, psychosocial interventions are restricted activities only when performed with an intention to treat the patients with specific disorders. The interpretive guide is intended to help with understanding when psychosocial intervention is a restricted activity and who can perform restricted psychosocial interventions.
For more information, read Psychosocial Interventions: An Interpretive Guide to the Restricted Activity.
Regulatory colleges have the legislated role to ensure all Alberta registered health professionals provide safe, competent and ethical care. Regulatory colleges determine entry to practice qualifications for the profession, approve education programs, and issue practice permits to those who meet the legislated and regulatory requirements.
For more information on registration requirements for specific professions, visit or contact the corresponding regulatory college listed below.
Regulated health professions authorized under the HPA – Colleges and regulation
- Acupuncturists – College of Acupuncturists of Alberta / Regulation
- Audiologists – Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists / Regulation
- Chiropractors – College of Chiropractors of Alberta / Regulation
- Combined Laboratory and X-ray Technologists – Alberta College of Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologists / Regulation
- Dental Assistants – College of Alberta Dental Assistants / Regulation
- Dental Hygienists – Alberta College of Dental Hygienists / Regulation
- Dental Technologists – College of Dental Technologists of Alberta / Regulation
- Dentists – College of Dental Surgeons of Alberta / Regulation
- Denturists – College of Alberta Denturists / Regulation
- Dietitians – College of Dietitians of Alberta / Regulation
- Hearing Aid Practitioners – College of Hearing Aid Practitioners of Alberta / Regulation
- Licensed Practical Nurses – College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta / Regulation
- Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists – Alberta College of Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists / Regulation
- Medical Laboratory Technologists – College of Medical Laboratory Technologists of Alberta / Regulation
- Midwives – College of Midwives of Alberta / Regulation
- Naturopaths – College of Naturopathic Doctors of Alberta / Regulation
- Occupational Therapists – Alberta College of Occupational Therapists / Regulation
- Opticians – College of Opticians of Alberta / Regulation
- Optometrists – Alberta College of Optometrists / Regulation
- Paramedics – Alberta College of Paramedics / Regulation
- Pharmacists – Alberta College of Pharmacy / Regulation
- Pharmacy Technicians – Alberta College of Pharmacy / Regulation
- Physiotherapists – College of Physiotherapists of Alberta / Regulation
- Physicians, Surgeons, Osteopaths and Physician Assistants Regulation – College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta / Regulation
- Podiatrists – College of Podiatric Physicians of Alberta / Regulation
- Psychiatric Nurses – College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of Alberta / Regulation
- Psychologists – College of Alberta Psychologists / Regulation
- Registered Nurses – College of Registered Nurses of Alberta / Regulation
- Respiratory Therapists – College of Respiratory Therapists of Alberta / Regulation
- Social Workers – Alberta College of Social Workers / Regulation
- Speech-Language Pathologists – Alberta College of Speech-Language Pathologists and Audiologists / Regulation
Health professions to be regulated
The HPA has been amended so the following health professions can be regulated. Regulations must first be developed before the designated regulatory colleges starts to govern these professions.
- Diagnostic Medical Sonographers (Alberta College of Medical Diagnostic and Therapeutic Technologists)
- Counselling Therapists (Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta)
- Addiction Counsellors (Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta)
- Child and Youth Care Counsellors (Association of Counselling Therapy of Alberta)
- Health Care Aides (College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta)
Connect with us about regulated health professions:
Email: [email protected]
Contact the relevant regulatory college, listed above, for information about a specific regulated profession, including information about registration processes and requirements.
For general comments or questions, use the Contact government page.
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