An Update on HCA Regulation
In Alberta, Health Care Aides (HCAs) are frontline healthcare workers. HCAs play a major role in providing Albertans with quality, person-centred care. HCAs work collaboratively as part of a healthcare team, under the supervision of a regulated healthcare professional. HCAs provide personal care and other essential health services in hospitals, continuing care facilities, group homes, and other healthcare settings.
The following information first appeared in CARE Magazine Fall/Winter 2022. The content has been lightly edited.
In Alberta, most health professionals are regulated by regulatory bodies called “colleges” under a law known as the Health Professions Act (HPA). Regulated health professions include many different professions, from physicians and dentists to medical laboratory technologists and respiratory therapists. Currently, there are approximately 30 different regulated health professions in Alberta. Most regulatory colleges regulate a single profession, but some colleges regulate multiple professions.
In 2020, the HPA was amended to allow for regulation of HCAs as their own health profession; however, these amendments have not yet been implemented. When these amendments are implemented, HCAs will become one of those approximately 30 health professions regulated under the HPA. The College of Licensed Practical Nurses of Alberta will be the regulatory college for these two distinct professions: Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and HCAs in Alberta.
Every profession regulated under the HPA has its own standards of practice and code of ethics. Although HCAs will be regulated by the CLPNA, HCAs and LPNs will be distinct professions, each with its own standards of practice and code of ethics. Alberta will be the first province in Canada to regulate HCAs as health professionals.
As part of the CLPNA’s work to engage various stakeholders, including LPNs, HCAs, employers, educators, unions, and government, the CLPNA hosted virtual forums to start a conversation on HCA regulation in Alberta. The forums were held online to allow participants to attend from across the province. This was an opportunity for those who attended to provide feedback and ask questions directly to the CLPNA. The forum included a brief introduction, overview on HCA regulation, and breakout sessions to allow for smaller groups to explore key questions regarding HCA regulation in Alberta.
The following are a few of the frequently asked questions and answers from these forums.
HCAs will become a profession and be accountable to their own standards of practice as with all other health professionals in Alberta. The Health Professions Act establishes some common rules for all health professionals as well as authorizing a regulatory body, also known as a “college,” to create and enforce rules specific to each health profession. The job of a college is to protect the public from unsafe practice and hold registrants of the profession accountable for the care they provide to patients. Colleges also create additional policy documents to guide the application of these rules.
HCAs will have requirements for registration, continuing competence, and a mechanism for managing unprofessional conduct.
When HCAs become regulated, CLPNA will change its name to reflect that it regulates both LPNs and HCAs.
When Health Care Aides become a regulated profession in Alberta, their practice statement will be defined in Schedule 10 of the Health Professions Act. Standards of practice and a Code of ethics will further define the scope of practice for HCAs. These documents, along with the Competency Profile for HCAs, will outline the knowledge, skills, behaviours, and attitudes required by all HCAs in Alberta and will further assist in clarifying the role and accountabilities of an HCA. When HCAs become regulated, their scope of practice will remain unchanged, meaning their day-to-day practice will not change.
There are standards for the education of HCAs, and postsecondary education programs are required to meet those standards in teaching the HCA program in Alberta. After students complete the HCA program and become registered as HCAs in Alberta, they will be required to meet continuing competence standards or standards for practice. A continuing competence program provides a framework to ensure that registrants are continually learning to enhance their skills.
As required by the HPA, CLPNA must implement a continuing competence program for HCAs within 18 months of regulation. The continuing competence program will be specific to the needs of HCAs but will be administratively similar to the continuing competence program for LPNs.
The CLPNA is also required to perform an audit of registrants’ continuing competence learning. The process will involve a review of the learning that a registrant has undertaken. Audits will only commence after the continuing competence program has been fully established and operating for at least one year.
While standards of practice will be adopted by the Council of the CLPNA, there are further regulations governing the practice of HCAs that will be developed in collaboration with the Alberta Ministry of Health and other relevant stakeholders. The exact date of when this regulation will be implemented by the Government of Alberta is unknown at this time.
The CLPNA will provide a timeline as soon as the regulation has a specific date. Until the regulation is implemented, the CLPNA is preparing by providing frequent communications.
As more information becomes available, updates will be posted on the HCA Regulation website. Sign up for the newsletter to receive notifications and other information related to HCA regulation activities. If you have any specific questions, please contact HCA regulation at email@example.com.