As a licensed dental hygienist in Pennsylvania, you've built a career around helping people enjoy better health. It also happens to be a career that relies heavily on public trust and high ethical standards, which is why the Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry regulates this profession so closely. Unfortunately, this also means that a single allegation of misconduct can easily escalate to the point that your dental hygienist's license is in jeopardy.
That's right—for all the time and money you've invested into your career, all it may take is a single complaint to erase all you've worked for. The Board of Dentistry has broad authority to issue discipline and a low burden of proof to decide whether you're guilty of wrongdoing. But there's still hope, even if your license is currently under investigation. With the help of an experienced professional license defense attorney, you may be able to keep your career intact.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney who has defended the licenses of dentists, hygienists, and other licensed professionals before state licensing boards. He knows how to navigate these types of cases and has a proven track record of success. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Misconduct Could Cause the Board to Revoke Your License?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry most commonly investigates dental hygienists for breaches in state policy, ethical/professional standards, or public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Unprofessional or fraudulent conduct. Some examples of this are false advertising, patient or financial records being altered, filing incorrect insurance claims, and behaving badly toward patients.
- Gross negligence or incompetence. If a patient is injured or put at risk of injury because of your actions (or inaction) on the job, this could trigger an investigation.
- Substance abuse. You could face disciplinary action if you're caught using drugs or alcohol while on the job, even if you're not impaired while working. If you show indications of excessive alcoholism or drug use off the job, the board may also question your competence to treat patients.
- Sexual misconduct. Any allegation of sexual assault, lewdness, sexual harassment, or unwanted sexual advances toward employees or patients could jeopardize your license. So could having an inappropriate romantic relationship with a patient you are treating.
- Criminal convictions. Being convicted of certain crimes, especially crimes of moral turpitude, can either disqualify you from holding a dental hygienist license or call into question your current license.
- Inappropriate handling of medications. Examples might include mistakes in administering medications (e.g., the wrong meds or the wrong dose), keeping inaccurate inventory counts, or pilfering medications for personal use.
If My License Is in Jeopardy in Pennsylvania, What Does the Disciplinary Process Look Like?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has streamlined the process of filing complaints against licensed professionals in the state, including dental hygienists. Any member of the public may file a complaint against your license with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Most complainants against dental hygienists are patients/former patients, coworkers, other practitioners, etc.
After the BPOA receives the complaint, the disciplinary process moves forward as follows.
The BPOA will appoint an investigator from Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to investigate the complaint against you. You may be asked to respond to the complaint in writing. The investigator will likely also interview the complainant and any witnesses, subpoena any related documents, etc. If the investigation turns up insufficient evidence to support the complaint, the matter will be closed at this point. If evidence is found, however, the case moves forward.
If the board finds the evidence against you to be convincing, they might try to reach a consent agreement with you as an alternative to holding a formal hearing. A consent agreement is a binding agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the board's recommendations for disciplinary actions. In essence, it's an admission of guilt. A consent agreement isn't always the best resolution, especially if you have evidence to refute the complaint--but it may be the best option if the evidence against you is strong, especially if the agreement either allows you to keep your license or includes a path for reinstatement.
If you do not have a signed consent agreement, the next stage is to summon you to a formal hearing where you may appear with an attorney. You will be asked to show cause why your license should not be suspended or revoked. At the conclusion of the hearing, the board will make a final determination as to disciplinary actions, which could range anywhere from a reprimand to fully revoking your hygienist's license.
Why Hire a Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney to Help You?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Dentistry is bound to protect the public and has broad authority to discipline dental hygienists found to have violated its professional or ethical standards. In license investigations, there's no guaranteed presumption of innocence, and even your attempts to respond to the complaint could be used as evidence against you. Without an attorney to help you, you are at a distinct disadvantage.
By contrast, an attorney who is experienced in professional license defense will know how to navigate the system and give you the best chance at a favorable outcome. A good attorney will review the complaint and devise a compelling defense strategy to counter it. They can gather evidence, procure witnesses, and even negotiate directly with the BPOA or the Board of Dentistry to have the complaint dropped or for minimized disciplinary actions--even before the case makes it to a formal hearing. If a hearing is called, your attorney will defend you vigorously. In short, your chances of keeping your license go up considerably with an experienced attorney on your side.
If you are a dental hygienist in Pennsylvania who is accused of wrongdoing or violations, your livelihood could be at stake. Don't risk your future by entering the disciplinary process without a skilled attorney in your corner. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.