It won't come as news to you that you can't practice medicine in North Dakota without a license from the North Dakota Board of Medicine (NDBOM). That's true in any state. Your license means so much more than “permission to practice,” though. It's your compact with the state. You agree to abide by North Dakota's health care rules and laws, and in exchange, North Dakota verifies that you have the credentials and the professionalism to be trusted to look after the public health. Your license tells your patients and your community that you are qualified, that you put their well-being above all other concerns, and that you are a person of the highest moral and ethical character.
It's hard to imagine anything more valuable to you as a professional. You can't afford to take any threat to your license lightly. An allegation of misconduct, questions about your medical school's accreditation, or your continuing education hours—these issues can completely derail your medical career.
Given just how much is at stake, you never want to respond to such issues on your own. You need help, and you need the best help you can find.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team was built to handle professional license defenses. We know the law, and we know how the North Dakota licensing system operates. We keep up with who sits on the Board of Medicine and what kinds of social and political issues may be influencing their decisions. We stay up to date on the latest innovations in the healthcare industry and how they may impact the evolution of medical ethics.
Most importantly, though, our team understands just how important your license is to you. We're licensed as well. We know how difficult the process to obtain a license is and just how stressful it can be any time your license is threatened. We've also worked with hundreds of physicians and other healthcare professionals. We're not just here to protect your rights or make sure you get a good settlement. Of course, we do those things. But we're also here to make sure you're comfortable throughout the process. Our job is to handle the stress related to licensing issues so you don't have to.
The Physician Licensing Process in North Dakota
Your license doesn't have to be in jeopardy to need help from the Professional License Defense Team attorneys at the Lento Law Firm. Getting your credentials and maintaining your credentials are difficult processes, and it's always useful to have someone who knows those processes to help you through them.
As part of your initial application, for example, state law requires you to submit
- The application itself
- Documentation of your medical degree
- Documentation that you've successfully completed a resident program
- Documentation that you have a medical licensure examination
Any mistakes or omissions in your record can delay the process or even prevent you from getting a license. One of the Lento Law Firm's most important services is to review application materials and look for any problems that might come up.
The NDBOM also expects applicants to have the “physical, mental, and professional capability for the practice of medicine” and to have “a history free of any finding […] of the commission of any act that would constitute grounds for disciplinary action.” You're required to report any disciplinary action taken against you during your medical school training and your residency. Additionally, the board can require you to provide evidence of your “physical, mental, and professional” competence. It can even ask you to complete a criminal background check.
Again, you can see why it's so useful to have an attorney from the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team beside you during the application process. Our attorneys can work with you to gather and organize materials. They can help you identify problem areas on your application and respond to those before they raise questions. In short, they can walk you through the entire process.
Of course, you don't just simply obtain a medical license and forget it. North Dakota requires all physicians to renew their licenses every three years. That means that every three years, you must endure the same close scrutiny. Any blemishes in your record can raise questions and need to be explained before they lead to bigger problems. In addition, you must complete 60 hours of continuing education coursework every three years. If those hours are in doubt, it can delay renewal, creating problems for you and for your patients. Here again, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can work with you every step of the way to ensure the process goes smoothly.
Just What Can Put Your Physician License at Risk?
License applications are stressful. Defending yourself from an allegation of professional misconduct is scary. Part of the fear has to do with never knowing exactly when a problem might arise. The list of potential offenses is long and changes all the time. It's hard to keep track of all the rules, and you can wind up accused of simply making an honest mistake.
North Dakota has prohibitions against
- All types of fraud, from creating or using a false document to advertising services you can't actually deliver
- Conviction for any misdemeanor related to the practice of medicine
- Conviction for any felony, even if it is unrelated to your work as a physician
- Abuse of drugs or alcohol
- A physical or mental disability that interferes with the competent practice of medicine
- Any type of dishonorable, unprofessional, or unethical behavior
- Any violation of Board rules
- Using an assumed name to practice medicine
- Leading a patient to believe you can cure an incurable condition
- Violating doctor-patient confidentiality
- Gross medical negligence
- Sexual misconduct related to the practice of medicine
- Prescribing controlled substances
- Charging for or receiving payment for services not actually rendered
- Failure to supply records upon proper request
- Pattern of inappropriate care
- Violation of laws related to controlled substances
- The lack of proper documentation in diagnosing, testing, or prescribing treatment
You might notice that many of these prohibitions are vague or generally worded. Others are open to interpretation. What does it mean, for instance, to have a physical disability that “interferes with the competent practice of medicine,” and who gets to decide?
Of course, you have a responsibility to your patients and your community to provide safe, effective services. You literally hold your patients' lives in your hands. That's a sacred trust, and the rules and laws set up by SDBOM, as well as your professional ethics, are crucial in helping you properly honor that trust. You can wind up accused of misconduct, though, without having ever violated your ethics, committed an unprofessional act, or violated state law. Honest mistakes do happen. Patients, supervisors, and colleagues do sometimes make false allegations. Or you may simply wind up accused because the law isn't clear enough. You can be entirely innocent and still be forced to defend yourself.
In fact, even if you're guilty of an offense, you should fight to ensure you're treated fairly and that you get the justice you deserve. In today's social and political climate, state medical boards can't afford to seem soft on discipline. That sometimes leads them to assign penalties that are far out of proportion to the offenses themselves. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team will fight for you when necessary, but our attorneys are also skilled at negotiating fair sanctions. We'll make sure that whatever the situation, you get the best possible resolution to your case.
The Disciplinary Process in North Dakota
You might not want to consider what happens when you're accused of professional misconduct. The fact is, though, that it can happen to anyone. It doesn't matter how long you've been in the profession, what kind of reputation you have, or how stellar your record might be. No one is immune, and an allegation can happen at any time. It's always better to be prepared for an allegation before it happens.
The good news is that the state of North Dakota has clear procedures in place for dealing with allegations. That is, you're not going to lose your license the moment someone accuses you. Further, as part of these procedures, you have a number of very important due process rights.
The bad news is the process can often be bewildering. If you don't know what to expect, it's easy to make a mistake. If you don't know how to use your rights to best advantage, they aren't really worth much.
Here's a basic overview of the process, followed by a more in-depth examination of each part.
- Cases typically begin with an official complaint.
- The North Dakota Board of Medicine conducts an investigation into the complaint.
- If the NDBOM finds some basis for the complaint, it then holds a hearing into the matter.
- Ultimately, the board determines whether or not you are responsible for an offense and what sanction, if any, to apply.
Anyone can raise a complaint against you. In practice, though, most complaints come from
- Other clinic or hospital staff
You should note, though, that not every complaint warrants further action. In order for the board to get involved, the complaint must be both credible and actionable. That is, the board must believe there is some reasonable basis for the allegation, and the allegation must concern an issue under the board's jurisdiction. The board won't intervene just because a patient disputes their bill or doesn't like your bedside manner. Even at this early stage, it can be useful to have an attorney from the Lento Law Firm Team at your side. They can try to convince the board to dismiss a complaint before it goes any further.
If the board believes an accusation is credible and actionable, it then initiates an investigation. Investigations are conducted by investigatory panels made up of six members of the NDBOM. Five of these members are physicians; one is a citizen.
The investigative panel usually begins by asking you to respond to the charges, either in person or in writing. This is your first chance to give your side of the story, but you must be careful in crafting your response. The panel will be looking for any information that might tend to suggest your guilt. In addition, you can expect the panel to interview any relevant witnesses in the case, including the Complainant (your accuser), your supervisors, your colleagues, and any other healthcare professionals at your facility. Finally, they'll collect any physical evidence associated with the allegation.
Physicians sometimes believe that it's better to face the investigative portion of a case on their own, especially if they are certain of their innocence. They think—mistakenly—that hiring an attorney will tend to make them look guilty. Here's the problem with that logic. You know you are innocent; the investigative panel does not. The panel will review your entire record as a physician; it will question people you work with; it will dig into your personal life, and you can't be certain what it will do with the information it finds. It may take your statements out of context. It may view a perfectly innocent incident in the most negative possible light. It may uncover issues that have nothing to do with the original allegation. From the very moment you are charged, you must protect yourself.
You may associate lawyers with court cases. And it's true attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team are highly experienced litigators. They're also skilled at protecting your rights during the investigative process. They can prevent the investigative panel from asking inappropriate questions; they can help you formulate responses; they can intervene any time the investigation is moving off-track. In short, a Lento Law Firm attorney can safeguard your rights.
The investigative panel can decide to dismiss the charges. If it believes there are sufficient grounds, though, it will recommend the board conduct a full hearing into the matter.
Medical board hearings can seem similar to criminal court cases. Just as in a court case, you have the right to make opening and closing statements. Just as in a court case, both sides can submit evidence and call witnesses. You may also cross-examine any witnesses against you. In fact, the NDBOM may ask the attorney general or a representative from the attorney general's office to conduct the prosecution. State law gives you the right to legal representation as well, though. You don't have to be an expert in how to solicit witness testimony or what the procedures are for introducing evidence. Someone from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can conduct your defense on your behalf.
Ultimately, though, a medical board is not a court case. There's no judge to preside over the proceedings, for example. Instead, the board itself—made up of members who have no legal training—gets to decide whether testimony is hearsay or evidence is prejudicial. In addition, the board doesn't need to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, it uses a lesser standard known as “clear and convincing.” According to this standard, the prosecution must only prove that it's substantially more likely than not that you committed an offense.
It's not enough just to have any attorney, then. You need the right attorney—someone who understands the NDBOM process and has experience navigating it.
Should the board decide you are guilty of committing an offense, it then deliberates as to sanction. State law authorizes several different penalties.
- Fines not to exceed $5,000 per disciplinary offense
- Obligation to provide free, charitable treatment for a specified period
- Letter of censure
- Restrictions or conditions on your practice
- ·License suspension
- License revocation
Again, state medical boards sometimes assign sanctions disproportionate to the nature of the offense. They may decide to suspend or revoke your license when a letter of censure might be more appropriate. Even if you decide to admit to a misconduct violation, you need legal representation from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team to make sure you're given a fair sanction.
Why You Need a Lento Law Firm Attorney
You should have a clear sense by this point of exactly why you need an attorney to represent you, especially in misconduct cases.
- The NDBOM is not on your side. You need someone who is. You may be used to thinking of the NDBOM as an advocate. The board does lobby for medical healthcare professionals, for instance, and it works to keep the public perception of the healthcare industry positive. Once you've been accused of misconduct, though, the board becomes your adversary. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm Team to look after your interests.
- A license defense is an extraordinarily complex matter. How complex is it? The attorney general may be prosecuting the case. Certainly, you can expect the board to have its own attorneys. That's because the process is complicated, and the issues can be difficult to unravel. You need an attorney to help guide you through it, to make sure you don't make any missteps, and to protect your rights.
- Finally, and most importantly, your license is simply too important to risk. It's your livelihood and your career. You need help defending it, and you need the very best help you can get.
The very best help you can get is someone from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense team.
When your license is on the line, a local or family attorney isn't enough. These attorneys are great when it comes to drawing up a will. They're personable and friendly, and you may have worked with one before. They don't have the background and experience, though, to deal with a licensure investigation and hearing. They haven't studied the law, and they don't know the North Dakota Board of Medicine system. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team attorneys have worked on hundreds of professional license defense cases. We work with physicians every day, and we know how the system works.
Other Physicians Concerns
License defenses are among the biggest concerns for physicians, but other issues do come up. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can help deal with many of these as well.
For example, North Dakota is a member of the national interstate license program. If you're looking to move to another state, or you're new to the state of North Dakota and looking to obtain a license here, the Lento Law Firm can offer advice on the process and what extra credentials you might need to qualify for a license.
We also handle medical school accreditation issues. Medical schools do sometimes lose their accreditation. Or the board may decide to reject a particular school's graduates when granting licenses. You may need to fight to retain your license, but more often, these cases involve some sort of negotiation. You want to keep your license, and the NDBOM wants to appear to be doing its due diligence. Attorneys from the Lento Law Firm Team can help both sides come to an equitable solution.
Finally, the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team keeps track of all the social and political issues affecting healthcare law in North Dakota and across the country. We know, for instance, how AI is influencing the development of public policy. We're well-versed in North Dakota's response to recent abortion decisions, and we're up-to-date on marijuana bills moving through the legislature. We also know the makeup of the NDBOM and how various member personalities affect Board decisions.
The bottom line is that the attorneys at the Lento Law Firm know the North Dakota medical board system and can help you to navigate it successfully, no matter what situation you might be facing.
What Can the Lento Law Firm Do for You?
Your medical license means everything to you. It gives you the right to practice your profession. It certifies that you are qualified and experienced. It lets patients know that you can be trusted. If that license is being threatened in any way, you can't afford to take chances. You absolutely must do everything you can to defend yourself, and that starts with hiring the best legal representation you can.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team understands your situation. They've helped hundreds of doctors and other healthcare professionals handle similar situations. They know the law. They've studied it, and they keep up with how it continues to grow and evolve. And they know the licensing system in North Dakota.
If your license is under threat, don't wait to see what might happen. Begin building your defense now.