Between approximately seven years of higher education, grueling exams, 36 months of residency training, and getting licensed in your state, it takes a huge investment of your life to become a podiatrist. Your podiatry license is now your most prized possession because your very livelihood hangs on it. Without the license, all your training is basically wasted. Unfortunately, a single complaint or allegation of misconduct can derail your career by putting that license in jeopardy. If you find yourself in this situation, you may feel bewildered and anxious. What comes next? What will become of your career? Most importantly—is there anything you can do to protect your livelihood?
Fortunately, if you respond proactively, a misconduct allegation does not necessarily spell the end of your podiatry career. With the help of an experienced professional license defense attorney, you may be able to avoid the worst and keep your license intact. Attorney Joseph D. Lento helps podiatrists and other medical professionals in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York who find themselves under investigation by various accusations and complaints. We have compiled the following information so you can be fully informed if your license has been threatened.
If I'm accused of misconduct as a podiatrist, who determines the fate of my career?
The state licensing board that first issued your license to practice podiatry will also investigate complaints and make decisions regarding disciplinary action. In the State of New Jersey, you will answer to the State Board of Medical Examiners. In Pennsylvania, it's the State Board of Podiatry, and in New York, it's the Podiatry Division of the Office of the Professions.
What types of allegations could cause me to lose my podiatry license?
The majority of issues that might lead to the loss of your podiatry license have to do with a violation of professional or ethical standards, a betrayal of public trust, or some other infraction indicating that you are not qualified to practice. Among the most common of these offenses are:
- Insurance fraud. Billing insurance for services not delivered, "upbilling," and overcharging patients are all examples of insurance fraud.
- Unprofessional/unethical conduct. This wide category includes everything from abusing patients and gross negligence to sexual abuse and inappropriate romantic/sexual relationships with patients or colleagues.
- Criminal convictions. Certain states will revoke your license to practice if you are convicted of certain crimes (e.g., DUI/DWI, fraud, or other crimes of moral turpitude).
- Medication abuses. Sloppy inventory practices, poor record keeping, prescription errors, and diverting medicines for your personal use--these are all examples of medication abuses.
- Alcohol/drug addiction. Substance abuse casts understandable doubt on your judgment and competence when it comes to treating patients--especially so if you're observed as being intoxicated at work.
How does the licensing board deal with allegations of wrongdoing?
Most disciplinary proceedings begin when someone files a formal complaint against you with your state's licensing board. The complainant could be a patient, a colleague, an insurance agent, etc. From there, each state board will have its own procedures for dealing with discipline, but most follow a process similar to the following:
- Investigation. The board conducts an investigation to determine whether there is evidence to substantiate the complaint. The investigation may include asking you to reply in writing, interviews with witnesses and the complainant, on-site visits, and subpoenas for documents.
- Consent order. The board may offer to settle the matter via consent order if there is enough evidence against you. The consent order avoids a formal hearing, but it is a legally binding agreement between you, the board, and the state in which you confess wrongdoing and agree to submit to disciplinary action.
- Formal hearing. If no consent order is offered or signed, you will be summoned to a formal hearing in which you will have the opportunity to answer the complaint against you. This hearing can either be held in front of the board directly or in front of an Administrative Law Judge in court. You may have an attorney represent you.
- Board determination. After the hearing concludes, the board will decide whether your case warrants disciplinary action and what sanctions to impose. This could include revoking your license as a podiatrist.
It's important to remember that this is not a trial and that the board does not have to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. At the same time, the board may opt at any point to drop the complaint against you or resolve the matter with a more lenient penalty. A good professional license defense lawyer can greatly increase your chances of prevailing with the board so you can keep your license.
Can the board take any other actions that still allow me to keep my license?
Yes. Depending on the situation, the board may opt for lesser penalties such as a temporary suspension of your license, placing restrictions on your practice, imposing probation, issuing fines, or issuing a formal reprimand--all of which could allow you to keep your license. However, bear in mind that even lenient penalties can do damage to your career because any disciplinary action is a matter of public record that can be seen by anyone who searches your records—including patients, medical facilities, employers, etc.
How can an attorney help save my podiatry license?
A professional license defense attorney can exponentially improve your chances of surviving a license investigation with your podiatry license intact. The attorney can help you prepare a strong response to the allegations, gather witnesses and evidence on your behalf, represent you in all interactions with the board, and negotiate at multiple points to have the complaint dismissed.
Regardless of whether your license is in jeopardy due to a false accusation or a simple lapse in judgment, any complaint against you could jeopardize your license because the board doesn't have a high burden of proof. If you're accused of wrongdoing, do not attempt to resolve the matter alone. Joseph D. Lento is a skilled attorney with a proven track record in helping medical professionals whose licenses are under investigation in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 today to discuss your case and your options.