Title Protection

Reserved Titles

Reserved titles, prescribed under section 12 of the Health Professions Act as being for the exclusive use of registrants of regulatory colleges, are a central and critical public protection element of British Columbia’s health professions regulatory framework. As a matter of policy, the Ministry applies the following statement of the former Health Professions Council in the scope of practice review portion of its “Safe Choices” report (PDF, 1.8MB):

Reserved titles afford a means for consumers to identify the different types of health care providers, to distinguish the qualified from the unqualified and to differentiate those practitioners who are regulated from those who are not. Titles must adequately serve the public in describing the practitioner and the services being provided and must distinguish the practitioner from others performing services outside the jurisdiction of the regulatory body. The Seaton Commission explained that while it may not be in the public interest to maintain exclusive scopes of practice, it may be appropriate to grant an exclusive (reserved) title to a health profession so the public will know that the professional with whom they are dealing is regulated by a college and is therefore qualified and subject to disciplinary processes for incompetent, impaired or unethical practice.

Section 12.1 of the Health Professions Act expressly prohibits a person other than a registrant of a regulatory college from using a reserved title, an abbreviation of the title or an equivalent of the title in another language to describe the person’s work, in association with or as part of another title describing the person’s work, or in association with a description of the person’s work. Some very limited exceptions to this prohibition are permitted.

Section 12.1 of the Health Professions Act also expressly prohibits a person other than a registrant of a regulatory college from using any name, title, description or abbreviation of a name or title, or an equivalent of a name or title in another language, in any manner that expresses or implies that the person is a registrant or is associated with the college.

Contravention of a prohibition set out in section 12.1 of the Health Professions Act is an offence under section 51 of the Health Professions Act, and is punishable, under section 4 of the Offence Act, by a fine of not more than $2000 or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both. Contravention could also result in an injunction against further contraventions being issued under section 52 of the Health Professions Act.

List of current reserved titles


Profession Regulatory Body Reserved Title(s)
Acupuncture College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC
  • acupuncturist
Audiology College of Speech and Hearing Health Professionals of BC
  • audiologist
Chiropractic College of Chiropractors of BC
  • chiropractor
  • doctor
Dental Hygiene  College of Dental Hygienists of BC
  • dental hygienist
Dental Technology College of Dental Technicians of BC
  • dental technician
  • certified dental technician
  • registered dental technician
Dentistry College of Dental Surgeons of BC
  • dentist
  • dental surgeon
  • surgeon
  • doctor
Denturism College of Denturists of BC
  • denturist
Dietetics College of Dietitians of BC
  • dietitian
Emergency Medical Assisting Emergency Medical Assistants
Licensing Board
Hearing Instrument Dispensing College of Speech and Hearing 
Health Professionals of BC
  • hearing instrument practitioner
Massage Therapy College of Massage Therapists
of BC
  • massage therapist
  • registered massage therapist
  • massage practitioner
  • registered massage practitioner
Medicine College of Physicians and
Surgeons of BC
  • medical practitioner
  • physician
  • surgeon
  • doctor
  • osteopath
  • osteopathic physician
Midwifery College of Midwives of BC
  • midwife
Naturopathic medicine College of Naturopathic Physicians of BC
  • naturopath
  • naturopathic physician
  • naturopathic doctor
  • physician
  • doctor
Nursing (Licensed Practical) College of Licensed Practical
Nurses of BC
  • licensed practical nurse
Nursing (Registered) College of Registered Nurses 
  • nurse
  • registered nurse
  • licensed graduate nurse
  • nurse practitioner
  • registered nurse practitioner
Nursing (Registered Psychiatric) College of Registered Psychiatric Nurses of BC
  • registered psychiatric nurse
  • licensed graduate psychiatric
Occupational Therapy College of Occupational Therapist of BC
  • occupational therapist
Opticianry College of Opticians of BC
  • optician
  • dispensing optician
  • contact lens fitter
Optometry College of Optometrists of BC
  • optometrist
  • doctor
Pharmacy College of Pharmacists of BC
  • apothecary
  • druggist
  • pharmacist
  • pharmaceutical chemist
  • pharmacy technician
Physical Therapy College of Physical Therapists of BC
  • physical therapist
  • registered physical therapist
  • physiotherapist
  • registered physiotherapist
  • remedial gymnast
  • registered remedial gymnast
Podiatric Medicine College of Podiatric Surgeons of BC
  • podiatrist
  • podiatric surgeon
  • surgeon
  • doctor
Psychology College of Psychologists of BC
  • registered psychological associate
  • psychological associate
  • registered psychologist
  • psychologist


Speech-Language Pathology College of Speech and Hearing
Health Professionals of BC
  • speech-language pathologist
  • speech therapist
Traditional Chinese Medicine College of Traditional Chinese
Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of BC
  • traditional Chinese medicine practitioner
  • traditional Chinese medicine herbalist
  • doctor of traditional Chinese medicine
  • doctor

Restricted Terms

In addition to the protection of specific reserved titles, the government has in recent years also identified significant concerns about the use by unregulated practitioners of descriptive terms such as “regulated”, “registered”, “certified” and “licensed” in association with a noun or abbreviation to form a title describing a health care practitioner. As the former Health Professions Council noted in the scope of practice review portion of its “Safe Choices” report (PDF, 1.8MB), such use is not in the public interest as it implies a level of objectively proven competency, and government endorsement or recognition of the occupation or profession, which does not exist.

Consequently, the Health Professions Act was amended in 2003 to add a new section 52.1 (not yet in force) that will prohibit the use of specified descriptive terms by non-registrants of a college, subject to some very limited exceptions. Section 52.1 was subsequently amended in 2006 and again in 2008. It will now prohibit a person who provides services or does work covered by the definition of “health profession” in section 1 of the Health Professions Act, but who is not a registrant of a college established under the Health Professions Act, from using the terms “regulated”, “registered”, “certified” or “licensed”, or abbreviations or equivalents in another language of those terms, in association with or as part of a title describing the person’s work or in association with a description of the person’s work.

Contravention of section 52.1 of the Health Professions Act will be an offence, subject to the same penalties described above for contraventions of section 12.1 of the Health Professions Act.

Exceptions will apply where a person is authorized by a regulatory body in another jurisdiction to use the term and uses the term in British Columbia only to indicate whether the person is authorized to practice in the other jurisdiction, or is a member of an organization exempted by the Minister from this prohibition. While the policy for determining Ministerial exemptions under section 52.1 of the Act has not yet been completed, it will be based on an assessment of the need to protect the public from significant risk of harm and the need to minimize confusion between regulated professions and unregulated occupations.