As a cardiovascular technologist or technician, you play a critical role in diagnosing and treating heart conditions, and your career depends on maintaining the public trust. Your work is essential to the health of your patients, and it is important that you maintain your license so that you can continue to provide quality care.
But what happens if you find yourself accused of wrongdoing? Whether it's due to a lapse in judgment or a complete misunderstanding, a single complaint can trigger an in-depth investigation and formal hearings that could ultimately cost you your professional license--and ultimately, the career you've worked so hard to build.
If you find yourself in such a situation, it is important to seek the help of an experienced license defense attorney who can help you navigate the process and protect your rights. Many licensed professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York have worked with attorney Joseph D. Lento to resolve their licensing issues. Mr. Lento is aware of the ins and outs of the disciplinary processes around professional licensing, and he will work to help you achieve a favorable outcome that protects your career. In this FAQ, we will discuss some of the most common reasons why cardiovascular technologists and technicians lose their licenses, as well as the disciplinary process that may be used against them.
What types of complaints could cause a cardiovascular technician to lose their license?
There are a variety of complaints that could be made against a cardiovascular technician that could lead to an investigation and possible disciplinary action. Some of the most common complaints include:
- Engaging in unprofessional conduct with patients or coworkers. This category includes acts of patient abuse and neglect, as well as unprofessional romantic/sexual connections with patients or coworkers.
- Gross negligence or incompetence. Making mistakes with heart patients can be life-threatening. Mishandling or misusing medical equipment, improper handling of patient charts, and other examples of negligence can be grounds to have your license revoked.
- Fraudulent practices. Examples include falsifying patient records or test results, "upbilling" insurance, billing for services not rendered, etc.
- Criminal convictions. Certain states will disqualify you from being a cardiovascular technician if you are convicted of certain types of crimes (e.g., DUI/DWI, fraud, theft, or other crimes that violate public trust).
- Alcohol/drug addiction. Substance abuse casts doubt on your ability to do your job safely and accurately and thus can be grounds for removal from practice.
- Practicing outside the scope of your license. Engaging in medical practices your license doesn't cover can result in losing your license.
If I'm found to be guilty or at-fault in a complaint, will I automatically lose my license?
Not in all cases. Some severe infractions may call for immediate suspension or revocation of your license, but your state's medical board or licensing committee will typically consider the circumstances of your case when deciding on penalties. In many cases, the penalties may allow you to keep your license or at least provide a path for reinstatement. Examples of these alternative penalties include:
- License suspension. The board may suspend your license for a specific period subject to further review.
- License restriction. The board may limit the activities or services that you can offer.
- Fines. The board may impose a monetary penalty.
- Continuing education. The board might require you to take continuing education courses if they believe the offense was caused by an educational gap.
- Mandatory counseling/treatment. In cases of substance abuse or addiction, the board may allow you to keep your license on the condition of seeking rehabilitative treatment.
- Probation. Probation means that the board will monitor your progress for a specified period to ensure you meet the requirements to keep the license active.
- Formal reprimand/censure. The board may simply put a reprimand on your record.
While these penalties are better than having your license revoked completely, they can still be detrimental to your career. Most disciplinary actions are public records, which means potential employers, patients, and clinics have the ability to quickly check your records to determine if there were any disciplinary actions against you.
What does the disciplinary process look like?
The disciplinary process for professional licensees looks fairly similar from state to state (with a few minor variations). In most cases, the process moves as follows:
- Complaint. The majority of disciplinary proceedings start with a formal complaint to the board. The complaint can be filed by a coworker, patient, colleague, etc.
- Review. The board will evaluate the complaint to determine if it has merit and credibility, as well as whether it is within the board's jurisdiction.
- Investigation. The board will launch a formal investigation to determine if there is evidence to support the complaint. They will likely ask you to respond, either in writing or in an informal meeting. They may also interview witnesses, subpoena documents, etc.
- Consent order. If the evidence is strong enough, the board may negotiate a consent order with you as an alternative to a full hearing. A consent order is a written agreement in which you agree to be subject to whatever disciplinary action has been determined by the board.
- Formal hearing. A formal hearing may be held in front of the board or an Administrative Law judge, depending on the state's rules. An attorney may be present to represent you at your hearing.
- Final determination and disciplinary action. When the hearing concludes, the board will decide on disciplinary actions against you (if any), including whether or not to revoke your license.
The board can dismiss the case at any moment during this timeline, or they may consent to lesser penalties as part of a settlement. Having a license defense attorney in your corner can greatly improve your chances of one of these more favorable outcomes.
Is it a good idea to agree to a consent order if one is offered?
It depends. A consent order is a legally binding agreement between you, the state, and the board. It allows you to agree on a set of prescribed sanctions in lieu of a formal hearing. If there is sufficient evidence to support disciplinary action, a consent order might be a good alternative, especially if your attorney can negotiate terms that allow you to keep your license or at least provisions for reinstatement. A consent order, on the other hand, is also an admission of guilt, and it will appear in public records. If you can rebut the claim with evidence, a consent order may not be the most effective solution. We highly recommend that you don't agree to a consent order without the advice of an experienced license defense attorney.
Why do I need an attorney to help protect my cardiovascular technician's license?
If your license is in question, you may feel tempted to minimize the problem or think that you can resolve it by simply explaining yourself to the licensing board. The board is not your friend, especially when there is a complaint against you. It is their job to protect the public interest, not yours. If you are accused of wrongdoing, they have broad authority and a low burden of proof, and they have the right to revoke your license even over a seemingly minor offense if they believe the complaint. The board actively searches for evidence of wrongdoing, so any attempt to resolve the issue informally can backfire on you.
Your professional license is, in essence, a legal contract between you and the state. Any action taken against your license by the board is considered a legal action. Thus, it is in your best interest to have a lawyer represent you before the board. This will increase your chances of getting a fair outcome.
Do I need an attorney for minor offenses or violations?
Even if the offense seems minor, it is still a smart idea to hire an attorney to get the best outcome. Not only could the board still revoke your license over a seemingly minor offense, but even lesser penalties can still have a negative impact on your career. Hiring an attorney not only helps protect your license, but if the complaint is minor, the attorney may be able to negotiate to have the complaint dropped so no negative notations appear on your public record.
Does hiring an attorney imply guilt to the board?
No, it doesn't. Licensing boards are used to dealing with attorneys, and they do not expect you to fully understand the legal and disciplinary processes that are involved in the investigation. They will not assume that you are guilty just because you have hired an attorney; if anything, it's a signal to them that you take the matter seriously--as you should.
Do I have to allow an investigator into my home or office if they show up unannounced?
No, you don't--and it's in your best interests not to do so. You are expected to cooperate with any investigation, but that doesn't mean you have to do or say anything that could be used against you. The investigator is actively looking for evidence to support the complaint, and you are not required to interact with them on your own behalf. For your best protection, politely inform the investigator that they should talk to your attorney before you allow them access--and politely decline to answer questions without your attorney present.
How does the attorney improve my chances of keeping my license?
A skilled license defense attorney can utilize a variety of tactics to significantly increase your chances of keeping your license. An experienced attorney will:
- Assume the role of your official legal representative when you interact with the board
- Provide you with context regarding the complaint and its implications for your career
- Work with you to develop an effective response to the complaint
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story
- Interface with the licensing board to negotiate for a dismissal of the complaint and/or lesser penalties
- Defend you in a formal hearing, if necessary
My cardiovascular technician's license is already revoked. Can an attorney help me get it reinstated?
In certain situations, yes. Your state may have a pathway for reinstatement for certain professionals whose licenses have been suspended or revoked. You'll have to satisfy certain criteria or conditions before your reinstatement can be accepted. These might include the following:
- Sending a formal request for reinstatement
- Payment of any fines and filing fees
- Sending a detailed record for every job you held while your license wasn't active
- Providing proof that you have fulfilled any previous requirements to be reinstated (e.g., continuing education or treatment)
- Submitting to any action plan that the board may consider appropriate
A competent license defense attorney will coordinate your application and keep track of its progress to ensure that you have the best chance of being reinstated as a cardio technician. They can also negotiate with the board for the best terms of your reinstatement.
How soon should I contact an attorney if I am notified of a complaint or an investigation into my license?
It is better to act quickly. If you wait for your complaint to get to the formal hearing stage, you may be at a disadvantage. Hiring a good attorney sooner gives you more time to prepare a strong defense and may help you find a solution that is favorable early on in the process. This could even make a formal hearing unnecessary.
If your license as a cardiovascular technologist or technician has been under investigation, it could mean that your career prospects are at risk. Taking action now could save your license. Joseph D. Lento is an experienced license defense lawyer with a proven track record of success. He knows the workings of the licensing boards and how they handle disciplinary cases. Don't let a misstep or mistake ruin your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.