Regulating health professional scopes of practice: comparing institutional arrangements and approaches in the US, Canada, Australia and the UK

Kathleen Leslie, Jean Moore, Chris Robertson, Douglas Bilton, Kristine Hirschkorn, Margaret H. Langelier, Ivy Lynn Bourgeault

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal Articlepeer-review

30 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Fundamentally, the goal of health professional regulatory regimes is to ensure the highest quality of care to the public. Part of that task is to control what health professionals do, or their scope of practice. Ideally, this involves the application of evidence-based professional standards of practice to the tasks for which health professional have received training. There are different jurisdictional approaches to achieving these goals. Methods: Using a comparative case study approach and similar systems policy analysis design, we present and discuss four different regulatory approaches from the US, Canada, Australia and the UK. For each case, we highlight the jurisdictional differences in how these countries regulate health professional scopes of practice in the interest of the public. Our comparative Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats (SWOT) analysis is based on archival research carried out by the authors wherein we describe the evolution of the institutional arrangements for form of regulatory approach, with specific reference to scope of practice. Results/conclusions: Our comparative examination finds that the different regulatory approaches in these countries have emerged in response to similar challenges. In some cases, ‘tasks’ or ‘activities’ are the basis of regulation, whereas in other contexts protected ‘titles’ are regulated, and in some cases both. From our results and the jurisdiction-specific SWOT analyses, we have conceptualized a synthesized table of leading practices related to regulating scopes of practice mapped to specific regulatory principles. We discuss the implications for how these different approaches achieve positive outcomes for the public, but also for health professionals and the system more broadly in terms of workforce optimization.

Original languageEnglish
Article number15
JournalHuman Resources for Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec. 2021


  • Australia
  • Canada
  • Health professions
  • Professional regulation
  • Scopes of practice
  • UK
  • US


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