At this point in the development of the British Columbia Paramedic Association most will have heard about a goal to make Paramedicine a self regulated health profession in BC. Many have said “that sounds great but what does it mean?” While others have posed the question “Why do we need that when we already have the EMA Licensing branch?” Both are excellent questions with overdue answers.
Oxford Living Dictionaries defines a college as “an organized group of professional people with particular aims, duties, and privileges.” Specifically a Professional College seeks to meet said aims, duties, and privileges in a self directed manner. To be self directed is to be “under one’s own control.” Paramedics in the province of BC are in no way under their own control from a professional standpoint. Out of British Columbia’s 26 regulated health professions, Paramedicine (or as it’s referred to “emergency medical assisting”) is the only regulated health profession that has failed to engage in self regulatory practices. Nurses, Physicians, Massage Therapists, Opticians, Dieticians, Pharmacists, Physical Therapists, Midwives, and even Podiatrists all have something in common that Paramedics do not; a self regulating professional college.
What have these 25 professions with protected titles realised about themselves that Paramedicine is now learning? These professions have learned that the miss-application of their unique bodies of knowledge poses a risk to the public. Additionally, self-regulated professions understand they are the most qualified to determine what constitutes appropriate versus inappropriate practice within their respective areas of expertise.
How did we end up where we are and what does that mean?
At the inception of what we now refer to as Paramedicine in BC, the provincial government recognised a need for paramedic practice to be regulated for the safety of the public. No structure for paramedic regulation existed at the time, necessitating the creation of the Emergency Medical Assistant’s Licensing Board. Members of the board are government appointed and have no direct control over the scope/standard of practice to which they hold paramedics accountable. Every paramedic in BC has their scope/standard of practice defined by the Emergency Health Services Act: Emergency Medical Assistants Regulation. What all of this means is that standards of practice enforcement is performed by the government (not paramedics). It also means scope of practice changes meant to better serve the public require an act of legislation via the provincial health minister. Enforcement of paramedic practice standards, changes to practice standards, and enforcement of educational standards, are not left to the subject matter experts (paramedics).
How would a self-regulated college of paramedics be different?
A self regulated college of paramedics would fall under the Health Professions Act. Professions covered by this act are responsible for protection of the public by, self regulating practice, ensuring professional/ethical conduct with impartial disciplinary processes, setting educational standards, and enforcing continuing competency standards (exact legal wording can be found under Duty and objects of a college within the regulation). The short answer is that Paramedics would be expected to set and enforce their own standards of practice without being directly controlled by other disciplines or legislators (ie. the subject matter experts would be allowed to set the standards to which paramedics are held).