Developing a Regulatory Body
PROFESSIONAL REGULATORY BODY COMPOSITION AND GUIDELINES FOR BOARD APPOINTMENT/ELECTION
A regulatory body must be set up and given powers by statute (a written law passed by a legislative body). The purpose of the regulatory body is
- primarily to protect the public, not the professionals
- provide guidance and oversight over the profession of optometry
A regulatory body:
- Will have a regulatory board
- May also have committees in place (i.e. complaints, discipline, quality assurance)
The Regulatory Body will put in place rules and regulations to implement the statute. It will further define the statute on how the profession operates and how the Regulatory Board also operates.
It is mandatory for optometrists who want to practice in a country to be registered/licensed with the Regulatory Body and to comply with their rules, regulations, professional standards, and codes of ethical conduct.
COMPOSITION OF THE REGULATORY BOARD
Depending on the governing rules of a country, the members of the Regulatory Board will be elected or appointed.
Appointment/elections of the members who serve on the regulatory board:
- must be a transparent process
- usually conducted under the authority of the government health authority/other relevant body
- the government/health professions council usually announces/publishes openings by issuing a call for nominations.
- the national association and all other registered optometrists should be aware of this call.
- appointments to the Board are not done by the national association, as this is conflict of interest. The association could nominate a number of optometrists for each opening to the public official/department/electoral officer who is facilitating the appointments or election.
- Any registered member may nominate a colleague to serve on the regulatory body
- the relevant authority that oversees the process for appointment or election of regulatory board members must finalize and make available the list of those appointed or elected to the profession and public through all relevant platforms.
Although a practitioner may be nominated through their respective association, university, group practice etc., if appointed or elected to the regulatory board, they must ensure that they do not feel obligated to serve the interests of the group that nominated them. It is important that the members of the regulatory board act independently and serve as good role models within the profession
Qualifications to be considered when nominating optometrists to serve on the Regulatory Board should include:
- reputation amongst their colleagues
- professional skills and competence
- ethical behavior
- leadership skills
- length of time in practice (usually a minimum of 5 years)
Common Regulatory Board Structure
- usually, a minimum of 5 and a maximum of 12 members
- optometrists should always be in the majority
- the balance of members are generally representatives from the public or medical community (depending on regulations in the country)
Terms of Office
- Set length of a term served (i.e., 3-5 years)
- Set maximum terms that a member may serve (i.e., 2-3 terms)
- Terms of members should be staggered to retain institutional knowledge (provide continuity of history involving past actions) e.g., it may be decided to always retain 25% of old members with each new Board.
An inaugural meeting of the Board should be held shortly after the Board is appointed/elected.
Usual procedures at this initial meeting:
- members are provided with the expectations of them during their tenure on the Regulatory Board.
- They may also be provided with a “Charter for Professional Board Members” which outlines codes of good governance.
- members take an oath/sign a declaration to exercise their mandate diligently and maintain the highest standards of integrity within their expected mandate
- members shall elect from amongst them a chairperson and vice-chairperson
if the regulatory body does not have an administrative secretariat, the members may elect a secretary. pro
Many Regulatory Boards also use a committee structure to carry out much of the work of the Board. Usually at least one Board member will sit on each committee.
- may be mandated by statute (i.e.professional conduct, quality assurance)
- may be working committees established and decided on by the Board (i.e., finance)
- are responsible to the Board for the work that they do
- do not set policy but rather make recommendations to the Board, which may or may not be adopted
- members are chosen for their knowledge and expertise in the area that the respective committee oversees.
RULES AND REGULATIONS
When developing rules and regulations it is important to seek legal advice to ensure compliance with the relevant Health Acts within the country.
Rules and regulations should cover
- definitions in the documentation
- application and qualification/testing requirements for licensure
- setting and monitoring of education standards
- requirements for continued licensure, auditing of education and practice standards
- the Code of conduct and ethics for the profession and regulatory board
- complaint, investigative and disciplinary functions
Once approved by a vote of the Regulatory Board, they are usually sent out widely for consultation for a set time period (30-90 days). Comments will be addressed, and changes can be made if the Board feels it is appropriate. The new rules and regulations are then sent to the appropriate legislative authority for signature. When finally enacted, all practitioners have an obligation to know and abide by all the rules and regulations that govern their professional practice.
The health terrain is always changing, and even exciting developments/innovations may need the Board to protect the public from potential negative impact of these changes. As these may not have been there when the rules/regulations were developed, the Regulatory Board can advocate on behalf of itself for changes to the relevant Health Acts/legislation as they feel is necessary.