Regulation Matters 2022 - Issue 1, May

Message from the Registrar & Executive Director

Developing the right touch as a regulator after two years of COVID-19

ONTARIO recently passed the second anniversary of an unfortunate milestone, one that has marked a prolonged period of significant disruption in all our lives. We have lived with rolling lockdowns, pandemic restrictions, and surges of COVID-19 and its variants ever since the provincial government declared its first state of emergency in March 2020. The past two years have been challenging for dietitians, filled with days of uncertainty, stress and even personal loss.

Each of you has a pandemic story to tell. Perhaps you were redeployed to another unit, where your skill set and competencies were needed in an unfamiliar setting, due to rescheduling or critical staffing shortages. Perhaps you were doing contact tracing, screening or temperature checks to reduce the demand on our health care system. Perhaps you took on multiple roles in long-term care to ensure that residents continued to receive the care they deserve.
You went where you were needed because you are caring, collaborative and conscientious health professionals. You may have arrived at work each day without knowing where your skills would be required. You may have moved to virtual practice — or entirely reinvented your private practice — due to the impact of restrictions and lockdowns. You did all these things and more while balancing your safety and that of others.
We applaud the tremendous contribution of dietitians to society during the pandemic, and the sacrifice that dietitians continue to make in delivering safe, competent and ethical dietetic services.
As the new Registrar and Executive Director of the College of Dietitians of Ontario, I have asked myself what the College can do, as a provincial regulator of health care professionals, to recognize the realities of pandemic workplace demands while fulfilling our duties under our governing legislation. When I joined the College in October 2021, I was impressed by the efforts of College staff to meet the needs of members by providing pandemic-related resources, individualized service from our practice advisory team, and modifications to practice and renewal policies.
I want to continue that momentum through the lens of right touch regulation. Think of “right touch” as finding perfect balance on a set of scales, through which the right amount of regulation is exactly what is needed within a profession to achieve the desired effect. Too little is ineffective. Too much can be onerous — a burden on membership and wasteful of College resources. In recognition of the ongoing uncertainty and staffing crisis related to the pandemic, for example, the College postponed spring Peer and Practice Assessments until later this year.
To form the foundation for the year ahead, we have implemented a number of strategies that support the goals of the College’s 2020-2025 Strategic Plan, which will enhance our services and align with our legislated mandate as a professional regulator. The College is also taking action on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and has created a webpage for members to follow our progress. In addition, we recently submitted the annual College Performance Measurement Framework — a mandatory reporting tool that maps the College’s progress on regulatory standards — to the province for review.
I’m excited about the future of the College of Dietitians of Ontario, and I would like to thank Council, staff and members for your support. The past two years have been a real challenge. And yet, perhaps the pandemic has shown us a new way to look at regulation, one which respects the professional realities of members, while fulfilling our role as a regulator under provincial legislation. Developing the right touch as a regulator after two years of COVID-19 is a worthy mission and I look forward to all its possibilities.
Melanie Woodbeck, MPA
Registrar & Executive Director
College of Dietitians of Ontario