Recent legislative changes to the governance and accountability of the health professions in Ontario have seen greater government involvement in the self-regulated health professions. The mandate of all self-regulatory bodies for the health professions in Ontario is protection of the public. Self-regulating professions monitor and enforce standards for entry to practice and continuing competence. Nurse leaders in education and clinical practice must be aware of these changes to the regulatory structure for health professions in Ontario. This paper describes the concept of self-regulation and its legislative history within the health professions. Nurse leaders have an important role in ensuring that team members, patients and the public are aware of the meaning of and rationale for self-regulation and the primacy of protecting the public interest.