You've paid a significant price, both in time and money, to become a licensed dental hygienist in New York--and it's paid off because you now have a rewarding career helping people. Unfortunately, there's a tradeoff: your career hinges on public trust, and the New York State Office of the Professions (OP) holds you to high ethical and professional standards to make sure that trust is well placed. That means all it could take to jeopardize your career is a single complaint or allegation of misconduct.
The Office of the Professions takes complaints very seriously, and they investigate each complaint to see if it has merit. If the OP believes there's enough evidence to warrant formal disciplinary action, they will take your case before a state Board of Regents. This is where things can get very serious, because the board has the power to revoke or suspend your license.
The best way to avoid this kind of outcome is to have an experienced license defense attorney on your side from the beginning. An attorney can help you navigate the investigation process, protecting your interests and fighting to keep your license intact. If you are a dental hygienist in New York whose license is being investigated, Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case and your options.
What Allegations Can Lead to a Dental Hygienist Losing Their License in New York?
Most claims that could threaten your license are related either to a violation of state ethical/professional standards or a breach in public trust. Among the most common allegations against dental hygienists are:
- Unethical/fraudulent business practices. Examples may include false advertising, misrepresenting your credentials, doctoring patient or financial records, filing incorrect insurance claims, and mistreating patients.
- Gross negligence or incompetence. An investigation could be triggered if a patient is injured or their health is put at risk because of your actions.
- Substance abuse. Any evidence that you are using drugs or alcohol while working, or that you are impaired on the job, could lead to an investigation and possible disciplinary action. Even if you don't indulge on the job, signs of addiction will cause the board to question your competence.
- Sexual misconduct. Any allegation of sexual assault, lewdness, sexual harassment, or unwanted advances toward employees or patients could endanger your license.
- Criminal convictions. If you have been convicted of certain crimes, especially those involving moral turpitude, you may not be able to get or keep a dental hygienist license.
- Inappropriate handling of medications. Some examples of this might include bungling medication, whether administering the wrong drugs or incorrect dosage. This could also manifest in maintaining less-than-accurate inventory numbers, or perhaps stealing medications for one's personal use.
What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like for Dental Hygienists in New York?
New York has created a standardized system by which any member of the public can file a complaint with the Office of the Professions against any licensed professional, including dental hygienists. Most complaints about dental hygienists are made by patients, coworkers, other practitioners, etc. Once the complaint is filed, the standard disciplinary process usually involves the following steps.
The OP starts by launching an investigation to determine whether the allegations in the complaint are supported by evidence. Interviews with the complainant and witnesses, document subpoenas, and other fact-finding efforts may all play a part in the investigation. If the OP doesn't find enough opposing evidence, they will close the case. If there is enough evidence, further review by NYS Education Department Board of Regents will be necessary.
If the evidence against you is compelling, the board might offer to sign a consent agreement with you as an alternative to holding a formal hearing. In a consent order, you effectively acknowledge your wrongdoings and agree to submit to the board's recommended disciplinary actions. Although it is not the right choice for everyone, a consent order can be beneficial in certain circumstances, particularly if it offers a route to reinstatement of your license.
If there is no consent order signed, the Board of Regents will then review the complaint and decide if disciplinary action should take place. The Board of Regents may summon you to a hearing to make a case as to why your license shouldn't be revoked. An attorney may be present at the hearing. The board will then make a determination of guilt or innocence based on the preponderance of the evidence. If they find you at fault, they will decide on appropriate disciplinary action--up to and including revoking your license.
How an Experienced License Defense Attorney Can Help You
You are at an immediate disadvantage if someone files a complaint about your dental hygienist license. The NYS Office of the Professions is obligated to protect the public and has broad authority to discipline dental hygiene professionals accused of misconduct or violating boundaries. A New York professional license defense attorney can level the playing field for you by ensuring your rights are protected, and your side is heard. A good attorney can:
- Act as your official legal representative in all interactions with the OP and/or Board of Regents
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint (which may sometimes result in having the complaint dismissed)
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your position
- Negotiate directly with the board for dismissal of the complaint or for lesser disciplinary actions that allow you to keep your license
- Negotiate the best terms possible for a consent order
- If necessary, defend you in a formal hearing
In short, hiring a skilled license defense attorney could make the difference between keeping your dental hygienist's license or having it revoked.
Your chances of saving your career go up considerably with a good attorney in your corner. If you are facing accusations of misconduct, attorney Joseph D. Lento is ready to put his considerable experience to work for you. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.