Licensed Professionals spend decades cultivating hard-earned careers, but sometimes they encounter hazards in life that throw them off course. Doctors, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, and other licensed professionals do critically important jobs, and it is because their jobs have such high stakes that clients and professional licensing boards are quick to pass judgment. If this sounds like your situation, Joseph D. Lento has the experience you need to defend your professional license.
If you are here reading this article, then the chances are that you or someone you care about is struggling and could be at risk of jeopardizing their professional license. According to a study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly one-fifth of the U.S. workforce holds a professional license, and each year, many of them are subject to investigation and license suspension. Not only does this consequence mean that the tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of dollars they put into their education has been wasted, but it severely impacts their ability to earn income going forward.
Oftentimes, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Professionals who struggle with addiction, or are neglecting their clients and patients due to some other unseen circumstance, are not alone. Getting to the root cause of the problems affecting your career is a critical step toward getting back on track.
Violating Your Professional Licensing Board's Policies
All professional licensing boards, and especially those regulating doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and therapists, hold their members to a certain set of ethical standards.
They all include policies on:
- Substance abuse
- Sexual misconduct
- Abuse of patients
- Failure to report criminal convictions
In addition to the above, there are rules specific to each practice. For example, pharmacists have the extra responsibility of ensuring their employees don't perform tasks they aren't licensed to do, such as handle medications inappropriately. For other professionals, like architects, licenses can be lost if you allow an employee or intern who isn't licensed to perform work that requires the license.
Most professionals will also be heavily penalized or risk licensure suspension if they knowingly overbill patients or advertise falsely. The reason professionals are held to high standards is because of the amount of blind trust their clients must place in them at times.
Still, doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists, and other licensed professionals are human, and small mistakes can lead to larger missteps. Before you know it, you might find yourself so deep into malpractice or negligence that you don't know where to turn next. You may not realize how important a competent defense of your professional license is or how swiftly your entire career can be jeopardized. If you haven't already, you need to consult with a professional license defense attorney as soon as possible.
Is Addiction Going to Cost You Your Professional License?
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), nearly 20 million Americans over the age of 12 have battled with substance abuse. In 2017, the NSDUH estimated that 1 in 8 adults struggled with alcohol and drug use simultaneously. Perhaps unsurprisingly, addiction costs our society over $740 billion in expense, including workplace productivity, each year.
Even though licensed professionals can attribute their success to their hard work and intelligence, they can still fall victim to addiction. The American Addiction Centers notes that genetics and environmental factors both play a large role in a person's susceptibility to addiction.
If you suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol, you should know that it doesn't mean you are a bad person or that you couldn't do your job well if you were able to overcome this hurdle. There are numerous paths to receiving treatment for addiction, and nearly all licensing boards have resources to help you through the process.
That said, if you've already begun to suffer some of the consequences associated with active addiction, such as neglecting patients or receiving D.U.I. charges, you need to contact an attorney to guide you through potential disciplinary actions. In many cases, the Lento Law Firm can negotiate reduced penalties from your licensing board if you're willing to demonstrate a concerted effort to stay sober.
Maintaining Your Professional License While Treating Mental Illness
Mental or emotional illness can lead to situations that might cause a licensed professional to underperform or worse. Mental health disorders aren't always easy to diagnose, and years may go by before an individual receives the help they need to treat the problem.
Additionally, studies show that a mental illness can manifest differently in a work environment than it does at home. Common illnesses and disorders that can subtly affect a licensed professional include depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Although the onset of these ailments may go unnoticed, they could eventually culminate in dire ways. For professionals with particularly high-stress work environments, where the stakes literally mean the life or death of a patient, the emotional toll can build up over time. Eventually, the professional may experience crippling depression or anxiety.
- Withdrawing from relationships
- Concentration issues
Importantly, preventing licensed professionals from working due to mental illness is against the law under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); however, professional licensing boards still must weigh the impact of the quality of professional services your clients receive with the ADA laws. Joseph D. Lento understands the complex nature of defending your license while fiercely advocating for your rights under all laws.
With the right mental health help and perhaps medication, many professionals are able to turn a corner and regain control of their practice and career. Once again, professional licensing boards are more willing to negotiate reduced penalties when you demonstrate a proactive course of treatment.
Family Matters and Distractions Can Cost Licensed Professionals
Professionals often must split their time between their careers and their families. While success can be rewarding, it can also be demanding. Perhaps no time has this been clearer than during the Covid-19 pandemic that forced individuals to be full-time teachers, parents, partners, and professionals. There simply aren't enough hours in the day, and you may feel that you're constantly choosing between your job and your family. While some employees can get away with cutting corners, licensed professionals experience greater professional risk if they sacrifice work quality for home quality.
In addition to the added duties that come with raising a family while maintaining a career, much of the licensed professional workforce today is entering a period of caring for aging parents. If all of that isn't enough to think about, throwing on a multitude of other life complications like painful breakups or divorces makes for an almost unimaginable amount of distraction. These distractions can lead to mismanaged office records or other disastrous slipups.
All of this distraction can take a toll on the amount of energy and attention you're able to put into your profession, and the result can be malpractice or negligence. When your professional performance suffers due to overwhelming family or other personal obligations, you need an advocate who can help minimize the impact of professional disciplinary actions you might face. After all, these busy phases in life pass, but you'll still need your career after they do.
Financial Pressures Can Lead to Professional License Violations
Licensed professionals across all practice areas may find themselves in financial trouble for a variety of reasons. Perhaps you have a big tax debt, are underwater on your mortgage, owe a significant amount of student loan debt, or were severely impacted by the Covid-19 shutdowns in 2020.
All of these stresses can tempt licensed professionals to overbill patients or mishandle funds. In some extreme cases, professionals are even pressured to provide unnecessary care to patients in order to turn a greater profit for the entity they work for.
If you feel you've jeopardized your professional license because of the way you've prioritized profits, it is imperative that you seek counsel from an experienced professional license defense attorney. If found culpable, you'll be asked to repay unjust compensation in addition to the fines or penalties assessed against you. You could entirely lose your license.
You'll need help from someone who can help you retain the right to practice your profession in the future so that you can recoup these costs. The best investment you can make in this situation is to hire a professional license defense attorney.
Dealing With the Root Cause of Your Affliction
Ultimately, professional misconduct can be the result of one or many underlying issues. You can think of the misconduct as the symptom of some larger root cause. Sometimes, there are multiple sources of internal conflict. For example, individuals often self-medicate their depression or anxiety with alcohol or other substances. This reliance, in turn, creates a dependency on the substance. If you are able to treat the underlying issue of stress or depression, you may find that the other issues become manageable.
Dealing with the pressures of balancing work and family can be particularly difficult because you have to consider the wellbeing and needs of your family while simultaneously figuring out how to get yourself back on track. Finding a family therapist can be helpful in these scenarios because an unbiased third party can aid in communicating needs between family members.
When there is a root cause to the problems threatening your professional license, you at least know that there are steps you can take to remediate the issues. It's not always easy to perform the kind of serious self-examination needed to overcome addiction or properly treat a mental illness, but at least you have options.
Joseph D. Lento has handled the defense of numerous professional license disciplinary actions, and he knows what the licensing boards need to see in determining whether or not you are taking the steps necessary to get back on track. It's important that someone aid you in carefully demonstrating your dedication to improvement to those who decide your professional fate.
What Prompts a Licensing Board Investigation?
Some individuals don't realize they have a problem until a formal complaint has been made to their licensing board. It can come as a shock when you realize that what was once a healthy drinking habit is now threatening your professional license.
Complaints can be made to your licensing board by any person who is affected by your job performance. Clients, patients, employees, colleagues, and insurance companies may all lodge a formal complaint against you. Although rare, sometimes the licensing board will initiate its own investigation if it suspects violations. For example, if the board is notified by a third party of a drunk driving offense or another criminal charge, it is likely to open an investigation.
If a complaint is filed against you, the licensing board will open an investigation to determine the validity and merit of the complaint. The board will first notify you of the complaint and attempt to obtain more details from the complainant. You could be asked to provide additional information or a formal written response. Investigations can take months, and you can often expect the licensing board to interview witnesses and even subpoena you for relevant records.
What Should You Do During the Licensing Board's Investigation?
During the investigation, you need to cooperate as required by law, but what exactly does that mean? When you receive your professional licenses, you enter into an agreement with the licensing board that says you will cooperate with any investigation into your professional license.
Investigators may even come to your house and ask to look around. While you may feel pressured, believing that to deny them entry could negatively impact your standing with the licensing board, in some cases, it may be ill-advised to allow investigators access to your home and personal belongings.
Up until the day that you are under investigation, you likely assumed that the licensing board has your back and is there to protect you. Ultimately, the board exists to protect the public first and foremost. Accordingly, when your license is being investigated, it is up to you and your attorney to protect you.
As a skilled professional license defense attorney, Joseph D. Lento will help you navigate this process. He can advise you on the best way to legally cooperate with investigators without giving them information that will damage your case. If or when the investigators come to your house, you can politely but confidently deny them entry and ask that they contact your attorney.
What Happens After a Professional License Investigation?
After the investigation, generally, one of three things will happen:
- The case will be dismissed.
- The board will offer to negotiate a settlement or Consent Decree.
- A formal hearing will be scheduled.
The case will be dismissed if the evidence is insufficient to prove the claim against you. If the case is dismissed, then you can consider the matter closed. Sometimes the licensing board will offer to negotiate a settlement of your case. When this happens, an experienced attorney well-versed in Administrative Law and professional license defense should negotiate on your behalf so that your interests are protected.
A Consent Decree is a legally binding agreement between you, the state, and the board. In this agreement, the licensee agrees to a plan of action or a prescribed penalty. Consent Decrees allow for negotiation of penalties without the hassle of a formal hearing, meaning the licensee may gain favor in the eyes of the board, which would rather not go through the time and the expense of the hearing.
Formal hearings are generally reserved for the more serious license violations and are heard before either the board or an Administrative Law Judge. Evidence and witnesses are presented similar to the way they would be in a court trial, although there is no jury. While some cases are heard before an Administrative Law Judge, the board ultimately makes the final decision.
Joseph D. Lento has many years of experience defending professional licenses in front of both Administrative Law Judges and licensing boards. He is a skillful negotiator and a diplomatic advocate who understands the nuance involved at each step in the process of defending your professional license.
Punishments for Professional License Violations Can Be Severe
If disciplinary actions are initiated against you by your professional licensing authority for the reasons described above, or another reason, the first thing you should do is reach out to a professional license defense attorney. Even if you feel that the investigation is uncalled for or is the result of a misunderstanding, the stakes are too high to simply hope it all works out.
The punishments associated with disciplinary action vary depending on the accusations.
Common examples of penalties include:
- Reprimand or censure
- Continued education or credentialing requirements
- Probation of license or restrictions on license
- Fines and restitution
- Temporary suspension of license
- Permanent suspension of license
Permanent license suspension is generally reserved only for the most serious of offenses. That said, professionals suffering from addiction, distraction, mental health disorders, and financial woes can find themselves in these egregious scenarios. In one case, a California doctor found himself facing hearings to determine whether he should have his license permanently suspended after patients report they received care while the doctor was intoxicated.
In another case, a Massachusetts physician lost the right to renew his license after drinking while at work. Importantly, the state board did say the doctor could apply for a stay of the suspension if the doctor could stay sober for 18 months while also complying with a probation agreement.
There are numerous circumstances that warrant leniency and second chances. You deserve to work with someone who will advocate on your behalf in seeking out all available options to you. It is paramount that your licensing board believes you deserve a second chance. The Lento Law Firm has years of experience guiding professionals through the defense of their professional licenses in these difficult situations, and Joseph D. Lento understands the best ways to demonstrate your commitment for improvement to your board.
Repairing Your Professional Reputation
Even if the penalties imparted by the licensing board are minor, the investigation alone can leave your professional reputation tarnished. Disciplinary actions are generally public information, and potential clients and patients often do their due diligence when seeking a professional to hire.
Reputation crises are not uncommon with the accessibility of social media, Yelp, and other online searches. Fortunately, this means that you aren't alone in repairing your reputation after an investigation or disciplinary action for violating the standards of your professional license.
It can take time to repair your reputation, but one tried and true way to go about doing so is to address the root cause of the issues that got you in trouble in the first place. Utilize resources offered by your licensing board and your community, or even resources found online. You can also find ways to contribute to your community and build back trust over time.
In conjunction with receiving the clinical help you might need, the best way to mitigate damage to your reputation is to hire an attorney who will ensure that your rights and your dignity are protected in investigations and professional license disciplinary actions.
Finding the Right Professional License Defense Lawyer
It can be difficult for licensed professionals to understand the importance of finding the right advocate for them when they need to defend their professional licenses. Many individuals don't realize that professional license defense lawyers develop critical expertise over many years of experience, and that this experience will determine the success of your licensure defense.
Just as you wouldn't hire an ear, nose, and throat specialist to examine the pain in your knee, you shouldn't hire anyone other than an experienced professional license defense attorney to protect your career.
In addition to his deep understanding of how professional licensing boards move through their investigations, findings, and hearings, Joseph D. Lento also realizes the value of providing his clients with the behind-the-scenes insights and context they need to make informed decisions that allow them to move forward with the greatest opportunity for success.
Joseph D. Lento works tirelessly to defend your professional license today so that you will have a future tomorrow. For more information, call 888-535-3686 today.