You've devoted a lot of time, money, and energy to becoming a licensed physical therapist in New Jersey--but it's worth it because you've built a fulfilling career helping people get better. At the same time, you're subject to very strict regulations and standards of excellence imposed by the New Jersey State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners. Any allegation of wrongdoing could put your license into jeopardy—and to put it plainly, if you have no license, you have no career.
All it takes is a single complaint to trigger an investigation and possible disciplinary action against your New Jersey physical therapy license. Whether the complaint comes from a simple misunderstanding or a single lapse in judgment, without the proper representation, you can find yourself at a distinct disadvantage trying to convince the Board to let you keep your license.
With the help of an experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney, your chances of a favorable outcome go up considerably when your license is at stake. Joseph D. Lento and his team have aided in such cases before and can provide you with the support that you need during this difficult time. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Allegations Could Jeopardize Your Physical Therapist License in New Jersey?
New Jersey requires physical therapists to maintain high ethical and professional standards. Most complaints that lead to disciplinary action against a therapist's license involve an alleged violation of these standards or the public trust. These include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Because physical therapy generally requires a lot of physical contact, it's crucial to maintain the utmost propriety to avoid misunderstandings. Furthermore, if you were to engage in any kind of romantic/sexual relationship with someone you're treating, it would be considered an immense violation of ethics which could result in losing your license.
- Substance abuse. If you abuse alcohol or drugs, regardless of whether you're on- or off-duty, it will likely result in disciplinary action against your license. This is because it reflects poorly on your ability to serve patients safely and efficiently.
- Patient abuse. Any allegation of verbal, emotional, or physical abuse coming from a patient or a colleague can put your license in immediate trouble.
- Improper record keeping. All physical therapists must keep detailed records of their patients and adhere to strict security guidelines for any patient information. Failure to do so can endanger patient health as well as arouse suspicion that you're engaged in fraudulent behavior.
What Does the New Jersey License Discipline Process Look Like?
In New Jersey, most disciplinary actions against physical therapists begin with a formal complaint which may be filed with the New Jersey State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners by any member of the public. Complaints against physical therapists are typically filed by patients, colleagues, insurance companies, etc. From there, the disciplinary process moves through a set of stages as follows.
Request for Response
The Board will reach out to you to notify you that a complaint has been submitted, and request that you provide them with a written response. Your response is key because, if your explanation of events is convincing enough, along with supporting evidence, the Board may forgo taking any further action. If you're looking for help to defend your license, an experienced lawyer can assist you in creating a written response that will stand out.
Next, the Board will forward the complaint to the Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC). The PEC appoints an investigator to fact-find and looks for evidence to support the complaint. Fact-A PEC investigation may include interviews with the complainant and witnesses, requests for documents, and other activities. The PEC may also ask you to appear and testify under oath.
You may be given the opportunity to sign a consent order with the Board instead of having a formal hearing. A consent order is a legally binding agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the disciplinary actions recommended by the Board in the order. Because a consent order is essentially an admission of guilt, it's not always advisable to sign one, but it may be your best option if the evidence against you is strong. With the help of a good attorney, a consent order may be negotiated to allow you to keep your license or at least provide a pathway for reinstatement.
If no consent order is offered or signed, the next stage is to summon you to appear at a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). You may have an attorney present at this hearing, during which you will be asked to show cause why the Board should not revoke your license. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge will make a recommendation to the Board about what disciplinary action should be taken against you. This could range from a minor punishment to stripping you of your license entirely.
Why Do I Need an Attorney Experienced in Professional License Defense?
If you are a physical therapist whose medical license is in danger because of a complaint, it is crucial to remember that the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners' top priority is public safety. This means that when it comes to violations of ethics or codes of conduct, "innocent until proven guilty" does not necessarily apply. The Board is not prosecuting anyone for a crime—its focus is on protecting the public. Furthermore, the Board can determine your guilt based only on a preponderance of the evidence, meaning they only have to be convinced that you were more likely than not to have committed wrongdoing. From the very beginning, you're at a disadvantage.
An experienced New Jersey professional license defense attorney will know exactly how the licensing board works and what evidence they will look for. Your attorney can evaluate the merits of your case and work with you to create a response that addresses all of the accusations against you. In the event of an investigation, they can assist in gathering evidence that may help build a strong defense on your behalf. They can negotiate directly with the Board either to have the complaint dismissed or to minimize the penalties against you. And if necessary, they will be by your side to advocate for you throughout any formal hearings or negotiations.
The professional license you worked so hard to obtain is worth protecting. If your New Jersey physical therapy license is under investigation, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team will work tirelessly to help you get the favorable outcome you deserve. Take action to protect your license and your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.