As a licensed physician assistant in Pennsylvania, you understand the importance of maintaining public trust in your profession. Indeed, qualifying for a license to practice in Pennsylvania is in itself a demonstration of your commitment to excellence in your profession. You've invested loads of time and money in your education, not to mention thousands of hours of field experience, to get where you are today. Unfortunately, all that hard work could be negated by a single complaint against your professional license.
The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine enforces strict standards for the ethical behavior and professional competence of its licensees--both physicians and physician assistants. In the event of a reported violation, the board will initiate an investigation that could ultimately result in the revocation or suspension of your license, effectively ending your career.
To safeguard your Pennsylvania physician assistant license when it's under threat, engaging the services of a skilled Pennsylvania license defense attorney early in the process could very well save your livelihood. Joseph D. Lento and his Professional License Defense Team bring extensive experience to the table after years of handling disciplinary cases like yours. They know what it takes to achieve the best possible resolution for your case and will work to get you a favorable outcome. Reach out to the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 to discuss your situation.
Potential Allegations that Could Threaten Your Physician Assistant License
Since physician assistants perform many of the same functions as the doctors they assist, they are held to similar stringent standards of ethical and professional excellence. Thus, most allegations that could result in a revocation of your license are related to violating these standards or otherwise betraying the public trust. Some examples include, but are not limited to:
- Fraud: Examples include overbilling patients or insurance providers, using incorrect insurance codes to increase payments (i.e., "upcoding"), billing for unprovided services, and more.
- Inaccurate record-keeping: Maintaining precise medical records is essential for patient safety, which is why poor or incorrect record-keeping can lead to serious consequences for physician assistants.
- Sexual misconduct: Unwanted sexual advances toward a patient or coworker, sexual harassment or assault, and engaging in romantic relationships with patients are all considered unethical and can lead to the loss of your PA license.
- Substance abuse: Using drugs or alcohol while treating patients is considered a serious violation of professional standards, and will likely lead to the suspension or revocation of your license. Even indulging while off the job can cause the Board to question your ability to treat patients safely.
- Patient abuse or neglect: Allegations of verbal, physical, or sexual abuse could endanger your license. Acts of gross neglect or incompetence (e.g., failing to provide necessary treatment to a patient, performing unnecessary procedures, etc.) can also result in license revocation.
- Criminal convictions: Certain criminal offenses (e.g., DUI or crimes of moral turpitude) may be considered violations of your PA license. Failing to report a conviction to the board could also put your license at risk, even if the crime itself would not have disqualified you from holding your license.
- Improper handling of medication: Inappropriate prescription or administration of medications, or stealing medications for personal use, could jeopardize your license.
The Pennsylvania License Discipline Process
In Pennsylvania, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA) receives and processes all complaints against state-licensed professionals. Anyone can file a complaint against you with the BPOA. Should a complaint be filed, the disciplinary process will proceed through a set of stages as follows:
Upon receipt of a complaint, the BPOA assigns a Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) investigator to gather evidence, interview the complainant and relevant witnesses, and issue subpoenas for documents. You may also be required to submit a written response to the complaint, along with any evidence that supports your side of the story. If the BEI finds insufficient evidence to substantiate the complaint, the BPOA will likely dismiss it.
If the BEI uncovers enough evidence to suggest misconduct or a violation, the Board may offer you the chance to enter into a consent agreement rather than proceed to a hearing. By agreeing to this settlement, you voluntarily accept the Board's recommended disciplinary actions, which could include fines, probation, suspension, or license surrender. While signing a consent agreement may not always be in your best interest, it may be the most viable option if disciplinary actions are probable based on the evidence. With the help of your attorney, you may be able to negotiate terms that allow you to retain your license or at least provide a path toward reinstatement.
If the complaint progresses to a formal hearing, you will be required to appear before an official state examiner to demonstrate why disciplinary action should not be taken against your physician assistant license. During the hearing, your attorney can represent you and ensure your rights are protected. After the hearing concludes, the Board will make a final decision regarding appropriate disciplinary measures, which could include revoking your license if deemed necessary.
The Role of a License Defense Attorney in Your Case
Facing a misconduct complaint in license investigations puts you at an inherent disadvantage. The State Board of Medicine takes these matters very seriously, with its primary objective being the protection of public health and safety. They rely on a preponderance of evidence to determine your guilt or innocence, and they have wide-ranging authority to decide on disciplinary actions without any guaranteed presumption of innocence.
An experienced attorney can provide invaluable guidance throughout the disciplinary process, from responding to complaints and negotiating consent agreements to preparing for and defending you in a formal hearing, if required. An attorney with good negotiation skills can often reach a favorable resolution with the Board before the case advances to the formal hearing stage. In short, having the right attorney greatly increases your chances of keeping your license intact and preserving your career.
For Pennsylvania licensed physician assistants, a simple error, misstep, or misunderstanding can place your license in jeopardy. Joseph D. Lento and his team possess the skill and experience needed to help you achieve a favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or fill out their online form to schedule a consultation.