What does it mean to be regulated in British Columbia? Opticians are regulated health professionals, which means that they are trained, competent, accountable and follow a standard of care for patient safety. There are laws, organizations and guidelines in place that define, support and monitor the members of this profession. Health professions are regulated because they are occupations that the public relies on for safe health services. Inaccuracy, inconsistency and poor communication can have serious health consequences for patients, so a system of regulation is in place to ensure clarity about rules and standards, consistent quality of care, and accountability for errors to prevent risk of harm.
Regulation provides support for professionalism and good practice. It is not a substitute for the knowledge and good judgement you practice on a daily basis, but it is a system to ensure that opticians have the resources and are accountable to provide quality, ethical, safe care to all patients. For example, professional colleges like the College of Opticians of BC (COBC) are required to create continuing competency programs to ensure that opticians maintain and grow their knowledge throughout their careers.
Being licensed is a commitment to a regulated profession and shows membership in a field of regulated health professionals. This professional status comes with associated obligations to the public that you care for, like following a standard of care and pursuing continuing competency development. When people choose to see an optician, they know they can expect safe, quality care.
What regulations are in place?
The Health Professions Act was introduced in 1996 and is the foundation of health regulation in British Columbia (BC). This Act has many parts, including stating what occupations are considered health professions, listing the requirements and duties for health colleges, detailing complaints and discipline processes, and the creation of the Health Professions Review Board.
Opticians are health professionals and they are regulated by the same laws as all health professions, but there are also specific regulations for opticians, which are in the Health Professions Act - Opticians Regulations. This regulation is important because regulation:
- Reserves the titles of "optician," "dispensing optician" and "contact lens fitter" for registrants of the College of Opticians of BC (COBC);
- States what restricted activities must only be performed by qualified registrants of the COBC, like contact lens fitting and automated refraction
- Lists the limits and restrictions on automated refraction;
- And it defines important terms to create a shared, agreed-upon vocabulary.
Other laws are in place that also impact all health professions, like the Criminal Record Review Act and the Personal Information Protection Act.There are also bylaws that the COBC has put into place to guide the operations and processes of the COBC. The COBC Bylaws describe the Board and committee member structures, elections, registration requirements, and inquiry procedures. On the other hand, the Code of Ethics Bylaw outlines the ethical duties of each registrant.
Finally, all registrants are expected to follow the Standards of Practice, which are put in place to provide a guide for the standard of care all patients should receive from any optician and/or contact lens fitter that they visit. This is a key document, because you can read it to receive guidance for how to practice. You can find a copy of the Standards of Practice with guidelines, or without. Registrants can also always call the COBC if they would like guidance or suggestions; daily practice brings many more situations than can be listed!
About the College
The COBC is a health regulatory body created by the Health Professions Act to regulate opticians and contact lens fitters in BC. According to the Act, our narrow mandate is to ensure that Licensed Opticians are highly qualified and competent professionals who practice their Code of Ethics, Standard of Practice and duty of care. The COBC sets the framework for the professional self-regulated profession of opticianry to protect the public in British Columbia.
The COBC's main responsibilities:
If you have more questions about the COBC or regulation, please contact us at 604-278-7510 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- REGISTRATION - Determine who is licensed in BC and maintain database
- QUALITY ASSURANCE - Ensure all registrants are (and remain) competent
- INQUIRY and DISCIPLINE - Investigate complaints and act to protect the public when standards are not being met
- PATIENT RELATIONS - Support quality patient care
- PUBLIC RESOURCE - Educate the public on regulated health professionals and opticianry
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