This policy applies to all members of the College of Optometrists of Ontario (the “College”).
There are two classes of membership with the College: (1) general and (2) academic. The College does not have an inactive or non-practising class of membership.
It is a condition of registration for both the general and academic classes of membership that a member must provide at least 750 hours of direct optometric care to patients in Canada in every three-year period (Registration Regulation, s. 7). If a member holds an appointment at the School of Optometry of the University of Waterloo or other optometric educational facility in Ontario approved by the Council, the member may apply to the Registration Committee for an exemption from the practice hour requirement on the basis that the member’s academic duties prevented the member from meeting the requirement. The Registration Regulation does not provide for any other exceptions to the practice hour requirement.
If a member does not meet the practice hour requirement and has not been exempted from it, the Registrar must refer the member to the Quality Assurance Committee for a practice assessment (in accordance with the Registration and General Regulations). A practice assessment may include the inspection and assessment of records, an inspection of the member’s office and a practice questionnaire. If the Quality Assurance Committee finds deficiencies in the member’s practice, the Committee can make recommendations, require the member to complete continuing education activities or require the member to undergo a clinical evaluation. Following a clinical evaluation, the Quality Assurance Committee may require the member to complete a more comprehensive remedial program or impose terms, conditions and limitations on the member’s certificate of registration (General Regulation, ss. 27-29).
The purpose of the practice hour requirement is to ensure that practising optometrists remain current and up-to-date in their ability to practise the profession safely and competently. Nevertheless, the College recognizes that members may need or want to stop practising in Ontario for a variety of personal and professional reasons. Those members may not want to resign their membership with the College. Accordingly, the College has developed this policy to establish the process to follow when a member requests non-practising status with the College, as well as the steps that are required for a member with non-practising status to return to practise in Ontario.
What is Non-Practising Status?
As noted above, the College does not have a non-practising or inactive certificate of registration. Non-practising status is recognition that a person is still a member of the College but has agreed not to practise optometry in Ontario unless certain conditions are met. The member’s entry on the College’s public Register will state “Member Non-Practising”.
Non-practising status is voluntary. However, if a member does not request non-practising status, that member will continue to be subject to all of the conditions of registration with the College, including the practice hour requirement.
Requesting Non-Practising Status
A member may change his or her status from practising to non-practising by signing and delivering an undertaking to the College in the form attached as Appendix A. In order to obtain non-practising status, the member must agree to:
- not practise optometry in Ontario while the member has non-practising status;
- provide information to the College, renew his or her certificate annually and pay all fees required under the Optometry Act, the Regulations and the College’s By-laws;
- fulfill the mandatory continuing education requirements of the Quality Assurance Program;
- have the fact of the undertaking posted on the College’s public Register;
- if the member has not provided any direct optometric care to patients in Canada in the three years before the member’s request to return to practise, complete a practice evaluation prior to returning to practise. The member will also have to comply with any orders of the Quality Assurance Committee arising out of the practice evaluation;
- if the member has provided some hours of direct optometric care, but less than 750, to patients in Canada in the three years before the member’s request to return to practise, complete a practice assessment within six months of returning to practise.
Upon receipt of an acceptable undertaking, the College will change the member’s status to non-practising, notify the member of the change in writing and update the public Register.
If a member does not sign an undertaking and does not resign, the member will remain subject to all of the conditions and obligations of membership with the College, including the practice hour requirement. In other words, if a member has not signed an undertaking and does not meet the practice hour requirement in a three-year period, that member will be referred to the Quality Assurance Committee for a practice assessment.
Returning to Practising Status from Non-Practising Status
A member may request to return to practising status in accordance with the terms of the undertaking he or she has provided to the College. The member must first complete a Return to Practise Form (including a declaration of hours of practice in the current year and statement of good standing), provide proof of liability insurance, and complete the Practice Location/Change of Information Form.
In accordance with the terms of the member’s undertaking, the member may be required to complete a practice assessment or practice evaluation depending on the number of practice hours the member provided in the three years before his or her request to return to practise. Specifically:
- If the member has provided at least 750 hours of direct optometric care to patients in Canada in the three years before the member’s request to return to practise, no further action is required.
- If the member has provided less than 750 hours of direct optometric care to patients in Canada in the three years before the member’s request to return to practise, the member will be required to successfully complete a practice assessment within the first six months after returning to practise.
- If the member has not provided any hours of direct optometric care to patients in Canada in the three years before the member’s request to return to practise, the member will be required to successfully complete a practice evaluation and comply with any orders of the Quality Assurance Committee prior to returning to practise.
Summary of Steps for Return to Practising Status:
The College strives to process Return to Practise applications in a timely manner. However, the College urges members to consult with the College prior to making any practice arrangements.
References to Relevant Legislation
Registration Regulation, O. Reg. 837/93 under the Optometry Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 35: section 7
General Regulation, O. Reg. 119/94 under the Optometry Act, 1991, S.O. 1991, c. 35: sections 23–34
How can I provide my comments to the College?
Seeking member and stakeholder input is an important part of self-regulation in the health professions. You may submit comments using email (preferable), mail, or fax:
College of Optometrists of Ontario
900 – 65 St Clair Ave. E.
Toronto ON M4T 2Y3
Comments due by December 8, 2015