In Ontario, the College of Chiropractors exempts new graduates from paying a registration fee in the year their first certificate is issued. New dentists pay a proportion of the fee depending on the month they enter practice. Respiratory therapists, whether they are new grads or returning to practice after an absence, pay a proportion of the fee depending on the time of year in which they register. Nurses, doctors and midwives all pay the full annual fee no matter what.
Your College has changed its approach to registration fees a couple of times over the past decade. Most recently, members could either pay the full fee or choose to obtain a four-month certificate. This meant that if you were just beginning your career, or returning to work after starting a family, you could obtain a short-term certificate that would bridge the period between when you wanted to enter practice and our annual renewal date of April 1. This could save you several hundred dollars.
But here is what happened: time after time, some physiotherapists failed to renew these short-term certificates. At the College, we spent a great deal of time and money trying to remind them and track them down, yet year after year we discovered many who practiced without a certificate for months at a time. The College’s prime directive is to register physiotherapists to protect the public interest: the four-month certificates undermined our ability to do this and we could not permit this to continue. In June, Council eliminated the four-month certificates.
But now what?
Should we be like the regulators for nurses, doctors and midwives? We would charge the full fee for everyone. In this way, we would know that everyone was duly registered and the public interest would be protected.
Or should we be like the colleges for chiropractors and dentists and offer reduced fees for first time registrants but no one else? If we did this, we would give our newest members a head start and welcome them to practice.
Or should we be more like the respiratory therapist college and permit all registrants to pay prorated fees so they pay only for the portion of the year remaining at the time they register? This would enable new grads, and physiotherapists returning from educational, health or parental leave, to equally benefit from a fee reduction.
Council struggled with this question at its meeting in September: there were passionate arguments for all positions.
The one-fee-fits all approach is simple to administer, simple to enforce and fair because everyone pays the same fee every year. Some would argue it also more aptly reflects a professional commitment to self-regulation than the other options. When a PT takes a break from practice, he or she is still a physiotherapist. Unless you are retiring or turning to a new career, you continue to benefit from self-regulation even when you are not practicing. While you are away for a year or two, the College continues to work on your behalf to ensure the ongoing quality and guidance of your colleagues so that you return to an ever strong profession.
Also, while you are away, if you are not contributing to the cost of running the College, the rest of your colleagues must each contribute just a little bit more until you get back.
On the other hand, applicants who are just beginning their careers are likely to need all the financial support they can get and it might start them off on the right foot in terms of their relationship with the College. A more engaged professional population leads to better self-regulation.
And what about Moms and Dads returning to work after a period of staying home with babies? Or daughters and sons who have taken time off to care for aging parents? Or PTs returning to school for specialty training? The most compassionate regulator would offer assistance to these groups while their earnings were reduced. And the College has been doing this up until now with the four-month certificates. Can we take this benefit away?
Council needs to hear from you—should every registrant pay an equal annual fee or should we offer reduced fees for new members? And how about leaves of absence—should we offer fee reductions for people who need time off from practice for personal reasons?
You can weigh in the comments below, or you can click over to thecollegeasks.com and let us know what you think. If this is important to you—tell your friends to visit the website and provide feedback too.
I am looking forward to a passionate debate.
P.S. Thank you to those of you who offered comments on my last blog. And welcome, if you haven’t dropped in before.
A word about the College’s response to your comments on the blog: we read every one and we learn from you. We welcome your contribution whether you agree with my remarks or disagree. There are a few rules on the side bar that indicate that we might remove comments if they are inappropriate, but otherwise, we won’t censor you. Please don’t expect a reply to your remarks—I already had my chance to express myself, now it’s your turn.