As a New Jersey licensed physician assistant (PA), you have devoted significant time, energy, and resources to attain your professional status. You're performing a vital role by helping doctors with their caseloads and providing important medical care to people who need it—which is why your profession is regulated almost as strictly as that of a physician. You've worked hard to establish your career, which is why it can be so devastating to find out that someone has filed a complaint against you alleging misconduct, and that your license is now under scrutiny.
The NJ Physician Assistant Advisory Committee takes allegations of misconduct seriously and will investigate with the utmost scrutiny. If needed, they have the power to suspend or revoke a PA's license, which is why retaining an experienced New Jersey license defense attorney should be your first step when you find yourself in hot water. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced License Defense Team have an excellent track record helping clients like you who are facing disciplinary issues. They will strive to provide the best defense possible while limiting any damage inflicted on your career. To discuss your case, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
What Allegations Could Jeopardize Your License?
Physician assistants often perform similar tasks as the doctors they support, so they must adhere to comparable high standards of ethical and professional conduct. Most allegations that could result in license revocation are related to breaching these standards or betraying public trust. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct: Examples include making unwanted sexual advances toward a patient or coworker, sexual harassment or assault, or engaging in an unethical romantic relationship with a patient you're treating. Any of these offenses could potentially cost you your license.
- Fraud: Examples include "upcoding" insurance claims for more money, overbilling patients or insurance providers, billing for services not provided, etc.
- Poor record-keeping: Ensuring accurate medical records is critical for the safety of patients, which is why inadequate or inaccurate documentation may result in disciplinary action.
- Substance abuse: Drinking excessively or abusing illicit or recreational drugs can cast serious doubt on your competence treating patients. If you demonstrate signs of addiction, and especially if you are reported as being under the influence while at work, this will likely lead to the suspension or revocation of your license.
- Patient abuse or neglect: Accusations of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse may put your license at risk. Gross neglect or incompetence (e.g., failing to provide necessary treatment, performing unnecessary procedures) can also lead to license revocation.
- Criminal convictions: Certain criminal offenses (e.g., DUI or crimes of moral turpitude) can be considered violations of your PA license. Failing to report a conviction to the board may also endanger your license, even if the crime itself would not have disqualified you.
- Improper handling of medication: Examples include prescribing medications with no medical justification, overprescribing addictive substances like opioids, keeping sloppy inventories, or diverting patient medications for personal use.
The License Disciplinary Process in New Jersey
The disciplinary process against physician assistants in New Jersey usually begins with a complaint filed with the Physician Assistant Advisory Committee. Your case will then go through several stages:
- Request for Response: The Board will send you a formal notification outlining the allegations against you and allowing you time to provide a written response. This crucial step provides an opportunity to present your side of the story. A well-crafted response to the complaint, especially one backed by evidence, may result in having the complaint dismissed without further action. Our legal team can help you draft a compelling written response.
- Investigation: Next, the board will establish a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to further examine the complaint. The PEC will likely appoint an investigator to look for evidence supporting the allegations, which may involve interviewing the complainant and witnesses, reviewing documents, and obtaining your sworn testimony, if needed.
- Consent Order: If the PEC finds sufficient evidence, they may offer to negotiate a consent order in lieu of a formal hearing. This agreement entails you voluntarily agreeing to the Board's disciplinary actions. Consult an attorney before signing this binding agreement, as they can negotiate more lenient terms or outline a path for license reinstatement.
- Formal Hearing: If a hearing is necessary, the Board will file an official complaint against you and require you to appear before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to justify why your license should be upheld. It's strongly recommended to have legal representation during this hearing. Following the hearing, the ALJ will render a decision and, if necessary, propose disciplinary actions to the Board, including license suspension or revocation.
Why You Should Hire an Experienced License Defense Attorney
When you're accused of wrongdoing on a professional level and your PA license is under scrutiny, things don't work the same as they would in a criminal trial. The board's priority is public safety, not impartiality—which means you have no guaranteed presumption of innocence in this case. The board has the authority to penalize you based only on a preponderance of the evidence—up to and including suspending or revoking your license to practice. Therefore, it's vital to seek counsel from an experienced attorney specializing in license defense as early in the process as possible. A skilled attorney can often negotiate a resolution during the investigation's early stages, avoiding the need for a hearing altogether. They can also gather evidence to support your side, procure witnesses in your favor, negotiate favorable terms within a consent order and, if necessary, provide a strong defense at a formal hearing.
Preparing for Your Defense: Key Steps to Consider
To ensure the best possible outcome for your case, there are several steps you should take when facing allegations that could jeopardize your PA license:
- Gather all relevant documentation: Collect any paperwork, records, or correspondence that might help support your defense. This could include patient records, billing statements, and communication with colleagues, patients, or insurance providers.
- Develop a timeline of events: Create a detailed timeline outlining the events leading up to the allegations. This will help you and your attorney identify key points in your defense and provide context for the situation.
- Identify potential witnesses: If there are individuals who can support your version of events or attest to your professionalism and ethical conduct, be sure to inform your attorney. Their testimonies could be valuable in building your defense.
- Stay informed about the process: Familiarize yourself with the disciplinary process, your rights, and the potential consequences you may face. This will help you make informed decisions and better understand the advice your attorney provides.
- Communicate openly and honestly with your attorney: Be transparent about the situation and share all pertinent information with your legal counsel. This will allow them to develop the most effective defense strategy on your behalf.
If you're a physician assistant in New Jersey who has been accused of an offense, don't gamble with your career and face the disciplinary process alone. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced team will fight for your rights to safeguard both your license as well as your future prospects. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation, or use our online form.