As a licensed and/or certified orthotist or prosthetist, you play a crucial role in helping people. You've spent years educating yourself, more years in field practice, and gone through a possibly grueling process to get licensed or certified in your state. Suffice it to say that if allegations of professional misconduct put your professional license at risk, it can be unnerving at best, and induce panic at worst. What will happen if the board takes action against you? How can you protect your reputation and your career?
Fortunately, you have options. By hiring an experienced professional license defense attorney, you can minimize the risk to your career. Joseph D. Lento is a licensed attorney who has assisted many professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York who have had their licenses threatened. The following questions and answers will help you understand the situation and inform you about your next steps if you are an orthotist or prosthetist who is being accused of wrongdoing.
I'm Accused of Misconduct, Who Do I Answer To?
Every state has different protocols for licensing and regulating the practices of orthotists and prosthetists. Whatever board initially granted you the license or certification to practice in your state is the board that will decide on disciplinary action if you're accused of wrongdoing. In New Jersey, for example, you'll answer to the Orthotics and Prosthetics Board of Examiners. If you're in Pennsylvania, your license is overseen by the State Board of Medicine. (New York does not currently license orthotists and prosthetists.)
What Are the Possible Offenses That Could Result in My License Being Revoked?
Most violations of state standards of professional conduct that can lead to disciplinary action against your license have to do with violations of the terms of your licensure or breaches of the public trust. Examples include but are not limited to:
- Gross negligence, incompetence, or carelessness. Poorly fitted or constructed orthotics and prosthetics can cause more harm than good to patients. Harming patients through incompetent practices is grounds for losing your license.
- False advertising. (E.g., making promises that you can't keep, offering advertising services you aren't qualified to offer, and so forth.)
- Fraud. Examples include overbilling insurance, billing for services not rendered, etc.
- Performing services that are not within the scope of your license.
- Permitting employees to perform functions that only a licensed practitioner should do.
- Substance abuse/addiction. Drug use or excessive drinking casts doubt on your judgment and your ability to do your job--especially if you're observed under the influence while at work.
- Criminal convictions (especially for "crimes of moral turpitude.")
What Is the Process for Disciplining Someone Accused of Professional Misconduct?
A formal complaint to the state licensing board is usually what initiates disciplinary proceedings. Each licensing board has its own process for disciplining its licensees, but the process is typically similar to the following.
- Investigation: To determine if the complaint is supported by sufficient evidence, the board conducts an inquiry. The board may ask you to respond to the complaint in writing or in person. The board can also subpoena documents or interview witnesses.
- Consent decree: The board may offer to allow you to sign a consent decree if it finds substantial evidence supporting the complaint. This is a legally binding agreement in which you admit to wrongdoing and consent to the board's disciplinary action.
- Formal hearing: In the absence of a consent decree, the next step is usually to call a formal hearing. This could take place in front of the board directly or before an Administrative Law judge. It is permitted and encouraged that you have an attorney to present your defense at the hearing.
- Board decision: The board will decide if your case is worthy of disciplinary action. At worst, it could result in your license being revoked.
It's important to note that the board does not have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt because this isn't a trial. They have the right to invoke discipline if they are more than 50 percent sure you committed wrongdoing. This can put you at a significant disadvantage. An experienced professional license defense attorney can help protect your rights and represent your interests during the disciplinary process. This is your best chance of saving your license.
Are There Lesser Forms of Discipline That Would Allow Me To Keep My License?
Yes. If the board is satisfied that your offense is not serious enough to warrant losing your license to practice, they can impose alternative penalties, such as fines, conditional suspension, restrictions, or formal reprimands. Remember, however, that even minor penalties can have a negative impact on your career as these disciplinary actions will be a matter of public record. If a patient, clinic, or prospective employer looks up your license, they can see whether or not you have been disciplined by the board.
What Is the Benefit of Having an Attorney Represent Me When My Orthotist/Prosthetist License Is in Jeopardy?
A license defense attorney can greatly increase your chances of retaining your license to practice. An experienced attorney will help you to understand the allegations against you and prepare a strong response to the complaint. An attorney can also gather evidence and witnesses for you, represent your interests in all interactions with the board, and negotiate at multiple points in the process for reduced penalties or to have the complaint dropped entirely.
Whether or not a complaint is valid, and even if the allegations are minor, it's not a good idea to go before the state licensing board on your own behalf. Even a minor complaint with scant evidence could cause serious harm to your career as an orthotist or prosthetist. Joseph D. Lento is a skilled attorney with a track record of success in helping licensed professionals such as you who face possible disciplinary action. Protect your license and your livelihood. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.