Self-regulation is a privilege, not a right, granted by the provincial government. Self-regulation is commonly used in technically specialized and complex areas, like healthcare, because the professions, not the government, have the specific knowledge and expertise needed to set education, competence, license and practice requirements/standards. The granting of self-regulation acknowledges a profession’s members are capable of governing themselves under certain conditions that include graduation from a recognized school and successfully completing a rigorous examination process before being granted the privilege to practice. Health professionals must also complete criminal record checks, provide proof of good character, renew their registration each year and keep their skills and knowledge up to date. This is done on the condition that the profession’s college regulates in the best interests of the public.
Without registration with a college, Albertans have no way of knowing if the person providing service has had appropriate training, education, skills or is subject to standards that ensure safe care. All complaints are investigated by CAP, and may lead to remedial, or in some cases, disciplinary action. While members of the public can bring concerns about a regulated psychologist directly to the college, complaints about unregulated care providers are much more difficult to deal with and sometimes may only be dealt with by an employer or through the courts.
Self-regulation is often identified as one essential aspect of a true profession. Other characteristics include:
- the protection of the public
- a defined scope of practice
- a specialized body of knowledge based on research and practice
- a need to engage in thoughtful and independent professional decision-making
- a statutory (legal) self-regulatory foundation
- a code of ethics
- standards of practice
- practice guidance, and
- a process to address alleged unprofessional conduct in a manner that adheres to the principles of natural justice