Pharmacists, Plumbers, and Profusionists

What do Architects, Dieticians, Nurses, Plumbers, and Veterinarians have in common?

They are all licensed professionals in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Along with Funeral Directors, Public Accountants and Real Estate Appraisers.

In all, about 530,000 individuals in more than 49 trades and professions are licensed by the Division of Registration, part of the Office of Consumer Affairs. The various boards of registration are charged with protecting the health and safety of all of us. Each board serves as a direct link between the consumer and professionals it licenses.

Each board is made up of volunteer members, including licensed practitioners and members of the public. They evaluate the qualifications of applicants, grant licenses and establish rules and regulations to set high professional standards.

They also investigate consumer complaints. And take disciplinary action against licensees whose conduct fails to meet the accepted standards of the profession. Those who practice without a license can be fined, imprisoned, or both.

Since 1998, four new boards of registration have been created by the Legislature. As of July, there's a Hearing Instrument Specialists Board to oversee licensing and regulating of people who sell hearing aids.

The Board of Registration of Home Inspectors begins licensing next May 1. To be eligible for this license, you must have performed not less than 100 home inspections, have a high school diploma, and have passed a written exam, among other things

Dietitians and Nutritionists will soon come under a new Board, with licensing to begin by June 2001. As with many other fields, a dietitian/nutritionist license may be issued to someone, without taking an exam, if they can demonstrate they have been in paid professional practice for several years.

The Division of Registration has some great fact sheets that will help you select a professional governed by their Boards. Take Veterinarians, for example. There are more than 58,000 vets professionally active in the United States.

You know what they do. They diagnose and control animal diseases, treat sick and injured animals, prevent the transmission of animal disease (called "zoonoses") to people, and advise owners on proper care of pets and livestock.

Selecting a veterinarian is much like selecting your own doctor or dentist. We have several excellent practices in the Greater Westfield area. What's important to you? Location? Hours? Friendliness? Ask a friend, or if you have a dog, check in with a breed club. And don't wait until your pet is ill. Find a veterinarian when your pet joins the family. Schedule a visit to meet veterinarians who have been recommended.

You might be surprised to know some of the other professionals covered by the Division of Registration. In the field of known as "Allied Health Care," the Board licenses occupational therapists and assistants, athletic trainers, and physical therapists and assistants.

The Certified Athletic Trainer, for instance, is a skilled professional specializing in the prevention of athletic injuries, recognition and care for athletic injuries, rehab of those injuries, health care administration and education and counseling. The trainer works under the direction of a physician and with other health care professionals, coaches and athletic directors,

Of course, the Boards are also in place to accept complaints from consumers. While the majority of licensed professionals in Massachusetts conduct themselves properly, there are times when the Division of Registration will take action against those who do not. A dissatisfied consumer isn't proof of incompetence or grounds for disciplinary action. Cases are evaluated based on evidence. The more the better.

You can contact the Board of Registrations investigation division in Springfield at 784-1151 for more information. Or request a fact sheet about a particular profession from the Division of Registration office in Boston at (617) 727-3074.

This year a new law was signed into effect creating the Board of Registration of Perfusionists. Perfusionists? Yes, perfusionists. I didn't know there were perfusionists out there. Well, I probably knew they were there, but didn't know what they were called. This new Board will have seven members, but specific dates have not been established for licensing. Practicing Perfusionists will be eligible to be grandfathered in.

So when might you need a Perfusionist? Only if you require a professional who operates the cardiopulmonary bypass system during your cardiac surgery.

I'm glad they're going to be licensed!

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