Professional guidelines for health professionals

Professional Guidelines

In British Columbia, health professions are regulated by self-governing bodies known as colleges. Under the authority of provincial laws, these colleges serve and protect the public by setting practice standards and guidelines for their registrants. The colleges are also responsible for establishing licencing requirements and ensuring that their registrants are appropriately qualified and fit to practice.  Finally, the colleges are empowered by law to manage and respond to complaints from patients, and to take appropriate disciplinary or remedial action against registrants who violate the college’s practice standards.   

While there are 30 different health professions in BC, this section will focus on the following groups: doctors (physicians and surgeons), registered nurses (including nurse practitioners), and midwives.  In British Columbia, the entity responsible for regulating doctors is the College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC (CPSBC), while nurses, nurse practitioners, and midwives are all regulated by the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM)

All physicians and surgeons are expected to meet the practice standards set by the CPSBC. A practice standard reflects the minimum standard of professional behaviour and ethical conduct on a specific topic or issue expected by the College of its registrants.  Practice standards also reflect relevant legal requirements and are enforceable under the Health Professions Act, RSBC 1996, c. 183.

The CPSBC has issued practice standards in the following practice areas:

In their practice of medicine, the CPSBC expects doctors to conduct themselves according to the CMA Code of Ethics and Professionalism in the following areas:

  • Virtues Exemplified by the Ethical Physician
  • Fundamental Commitments of the Medical Profession
  • Professional Responsibilities
  • Physician-Patient Relationship
  • Decision Making
  • Physicians and the Practice of Medicine
  • Physicians and Colleagues
  • Physicians and Society

While physicians are required to observe practice standards, professional guidelines reflecte a recommended course of action established based on the values, principles and duties of the medical profession.  That said, the CPSBC expects doctors to exercise reasonable judgement and discretion in their approach to the following issues:

The scope of practice consists of tasks and activities, as defined by provincial law, that a registered nurse is authorized to perform.

Unrestricted activities refer to the set of skills that form the fundamental basis for the practice of nursing:

  • Assisting clients with activities of daily living
  • Carrying out an electrocardiogram
  • Communicating appropriately with clients, colleagues and others
  • Collaborating with others on the health care team
  • Coordinating care services for clients
  • Counseling clients
  • Developing professional relationships with clients and others
  • Documenting timely, accurate reports
  • Managing or applying physical restraints
  • Mentoring and preceptoring
  • Planning client care
  • Pronouncing death
  • Providing some disease prevention and health promotion services (e.g., blood glucose screening)
  • Recommending or administering some medications (e.g., Schedule III drugs)
  • Teaching
  • Using isolation techniques
  • Using some types of equipment (e.g., lifts, slings)

In 2020, the College of Midwives of BC amalgamated (combined) with the BC College of Nursing Professionals, thus giving rise to the BC College of Nurses and Midwives (BCCNM), which now governs and regulates the nursing and the midwifery professions.

Under provincial law, the midwifery scope of practice is defined as “the health profession in which a person provides the following services during normal pregnancy, labour, delivery and the postpartum period:

  • assessment, monitoring and care for patients, newborns and infants, including carrying out appropriate emergency measures when necessary
  • counselling, supporting and advising persons, including providing advice and information regarding care for newborns and infants
  • conducting internal examinations of patients, performing episiotomies and amniotomies and repairing episiotomies and simple lacerations
  • contraceptive services for patients during the 3 months following a birth


Midwives can also obtain additional training and certification in the following specialized areas of practice: