Health professions regulators charged with the role of public protection are challenged to balance their mandate with appropriate policy interventions, particularly within a self-regulatory model. Applied strategically, emerging methods and trends in health systems and health professions regulation can inform regulatory practices in keeping with the regulator's role of reducing harm to the public. This requires a shift in thinking from a focus on how (i.e., resources and tools), to a focus on what, including clear problem identification, intended risks to be mitigated and consideration of outcomes and measurability of impact at the outset. Regulators should be enablers, not barriers to system change, but it is not their place to take on all of the challenges associated with monitoring and implementing interventions in response to health system evolution. Instead regulators must know their role, be willing to collaborate with other system players and work to implement regulatory interventions that complement rather than duplicate those better carried out by others.