Regulation is not known for being particularly nimble or flexible, and yet I think we have all been forced to take a hard look at our policies, processes, and assumptions and to act very quickly—and that’s a silver lining in this. – Lise Betteridge (ON)
Provisional and temporary registrations
No new legal provisions were needed to handle circumstances created by the pandemic, Hillenbrand said. British Columbia has a pair of licensure categories—a provisional registration and a temporary registration—that have been put to good use in addressing issues caused by the pandemic.
“We already have temporary registration, available to social workers at no cost,” Hillenbrand said. Temporary registration allows a registered social worker from outside the province to practice in British Columbia for 90 days, a period that can be extended to six months. Social workers providing services to university students especially benefited from this mobility provision. “We’ve had university students from all over Canada come home,” Hillenbrand said, “and we were able to set their practitioners up with temporary registration so care could continue uninterrupted.”
British Columbia also has a provisional class of registration that gives registrants with a job offer a year to pass their social work licensing exam. “That class of registration addressed the ASWB test center closures,” Hillenbrand said. It also supported the stability of the social work workforce, especially in hospitals. “We focused on getting students who had been doing practicums in hospitals provisionally registered so they could stay in their positions,” Hillenbrand said. By keeping in close contact through biweekly meetings with social work leaders in hospitals, the college was able to ensure it was not creating workforce barriers.
Communicating with peers
And though social workers are not considered to be regulated health care professionals under Ontario’s system, the college followed the health care regulators’ lead and shared very specific safety guidance—some directed toward those in private practice who may not receive information from an employer. Betteridge added, “Members were also strongly advised to continue to provide services by electronic means wherever possible.”