Becoming a licensed medical professional in Altoona, PA, is no easy task. Between investing time and money into your education, sitting for grueling exams, and obtaining the necessary field experience, you have dedicated years of your life to acquiring the necessary knowledge and skills to serve your patients and the community effectively. Now, unfortunately, your reputation, built through hard work and diligence, is in jeopardy due to a complaint filed against your professional license.
It's a fragile balance and a cruel irony, indeed: all the work you've invested into building your career could be upended by a single complaint. Your Pennsylvania state licensing board takes all such allegations seriously, and they have the power to revoke your license based only on a preponderance of the evidence. In these trying times, understanding the disciplinary process and seeking experienced legal representation can make all the difference in safeguarding your career and license.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Altoona
Engaging the services of a seasoned professional license defense attorney in Altoona, PA, can help you navigate the complex disciplinary process and protect your career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his professional license defense team boast a track record of successful outcomes for healthcare clients in Altoona, PA, and beyond. They understand the immense pressure and distress you feel when your ability to practice is threatened by a licensing board complaint, and they will work tirelessly to get you the most favorable outcome possible. To schedule a consultation, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686.
Navigating the Disciplinary Process for Health Professionals in Pennsylvania
In Pennsylvania, the licensing board that issued your license also oversees any disciplinary actions against it. For doctors, this is the State Board of Medicine; for nurses, the Board of Nursing, and so forth. The state follows a relatively uniform procedure for investigating and disciplining its licensed professionals, progressing through several stages, including complaint, investigation, consent agreement, and administrative hearings. Understanding each step is crucial to mounting a robust defense.
The disciplinary process typically starts when someone files a formal complaint against a licensed professional with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Complaints can be initiated by patients, colleagues, healthcare facilities, or insurers (particularly in cases involving suspected fraud). In cases involving criminal offenses, the courts may also notify the licensing board, which may trigger an investigation, potentially leading to temporary license suspension.
Upon receiving a complaint, the BPOA assigns an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to conduct a thorough investigation. This process may involve speaking to the complainant and any witnesses, obtaining subpoenas for evidence, and other measures. The investigator may wish to conduct an in-person visit. If contacted by an investigator, it is advisable to consult with your attorney before responding.
If the licensing board finds sufficient evidence to proceed against you, they may offer a consent agreement, allowing you to accept disciplinary actions without going through a formal hearing. However, this option may not always be the best choice, as it prevents you from presenting a defense, and any disciplinary action becomes a matter of public record. However, if disciplinary action is inevitable, a consent agreement can be your best option because it gives your attorney the opportunity to negotiate for more lenient terms, including, if possible, the ability to keep your license or a path to reinstatement.
Formal Administrative Hearing
If a consent agreement is not accepted or offered, the case proceeds to an administrative hearing before a state examiner. Here, your license defense attorney can present a legal defense and cross-examine witnesses as needed. At the conclusion of the hearing, the examiner will provide final recommendations to the licensing board, which may include a formal reprimand, probationary measures, or full license revocation.
How an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney Can Help
The consequences of a professional license complaint should not be underestimated. State licensing boards prioritize public safety, and they have the power to revoke your license based on a preponderance of the evidence. Don't expect a presumption of innocence in these situations. From the moment a complaint is filed, you are on the defensive, and the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate why you deserve to keep your license.
A skilled Altoona, PA, professional license defense attorney can make a significant difference in protecting your license and livelihood. They can offer legal advice, develop a defense strategy, procure witnesses in your favor, gather evidence to bolster your case, negotiate with the licensing board for leniency at multiple stages, and help with appeals if necessary. With the right attorney, you are more likely to keep your license or receive reduced sanctions compared to handling the case alone.
Healthcare Institutions in Altoona, PA
Located in central Pennsylvania, the City of Altoona is home to about 44,000 people, but the surrounding area boasts a population of more than 120,000 total. This area has an abundance of healthcare facilities, ranging from hospitals and urgent care to primary and specialized care centers, which provide exemplary services to the community. Unsurprisingly, they expect their employees to uphold a consistently high level of excellence; thus, should any investigation be conducted against your professional license, it could easily put your employment with these facilities in jeopardy.
Healthcare organizations and facilities serving the Altoona, Pennsylvania area include, but are not limited to:
As a leader in medical care, the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) provides excellent healthcare resources and services to its large network of 40 hospitals across the state. Since 2013, UPMC has operated the city's largest and oldest hospital, the 380-bed UPMC Altoona (formerly known as Altoona Regional Health System). It also administrates the Station Medical Center, an outpatient and specialty care facility offering a wide range of medical treatment options under one roof.
Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona
Part of the Encompass network of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of Altoona stands at the forefront of inpatient rehabilitation, providing exceptional care for stroke survivors, those recovering from brain or cardiac injury, and individuals rehabilitating after complex neurological and orthopedic issues. It was recently named on Modern Healthcare's list of Best Places to Work for 2022.
James E. Van Zandt V.A. Medical Center
Located on Pleasant Valley Blvd., James E. Van Zandt V.A. Medical Center serves as the regional Veteran's Administration healthcare facility for veterans and their families.
What Allegations Could Endanger Your Professional License?
The disciplinary actions a state licensing board takes against a healthcare professional vary greatly, depending on the nature of the complaint. Generally, the board is likely to take action when they believe that a licensee has violated ethical standards, codes of conduct, or public trust. Here are some of the most common examples.
Gross Neglect and Abuse
Neglect is any act or omission that jeopardizes a patient's health, safety, and well-being. Gross neglect or abuse can encompass physical harm, verbal or emotional mistreatment, medical negligence, unauthorized medication administration, HIPAA confidentiality breaches, or performing unnecessary or unsafe procedures.
Healthcare professionals must uphold the highest standards of care, including avoiding any romantic or sexual relationships with patients. Allegations of unwelcome advances, inappropriate behavior, or sexual assault can result in the loss of one's professional license.
Fraud can manifest in various forms, such as billing for unprovided services, overcharging patients or insurance companies, or misrepresenting one's credentials. Other fraudulent activities include altering patient records, accepting kickbacks for referrals, or offering treatments beyond the scope of one's license.
Improper Prescribing or Dispensing of Medications
Prescribing medication requires careful consideration of patient history, dosage levels, and potential drug interactions, and getting any of these wrong can cause serious harm to patients. Thus, violating prescribing guidelines can have severe consequences for healthcare professionals. Examples include prescribing medications without a justifiable reason, issuing suspicious amounts of addictive substances, improper inventory tracking, dispensing controlled substances without a prescription, or pilfering medications for personal use.
Accurate and detailed documentation is essential in the medical field, encompassing patient histories, diagnoses, treatment plans, and follow-up visits. Dishonest or sloppy record-keeping can endanger patients, leading to disciplinary action and loss of license.
Failure to Follow Treatment Recommendations
Disregarding a doctor's instructions or neglecting to provide recommended treatments can result in disciplinary action. So can failing to refer a patient to a specialist when their condition warrants it.
Drug or alcohol misuse is viewed as unethical behavior that undermines public trust. Illicit drug use, prescription abuse, or excessive alcohol consumption can lead to severe repercussions, including loss of license, especially if you're observed as being under the influence while on the job.
Some criminal convictions can disqualify you from holding a professional license, including fraud, convictions related to your profession, or other crimes of moral turpitude. You can also face disciplinary action for failing to self-report a criminal conviction, even if that conviction wouldn't typically result in loss of license.
Protecting Your License With Skilled Legal Representation in Altoona
As a healthcare professional, your license is your livelihood. If you've been accused of misconduct or are facing disciplinary action, it's important to act quickly and retain experienced legal counsel. The sooner you get an attorney involved, the more options your attorney will have for negotiating a positive resolution. (In many situations, early intervention can even help get your complaint resolved without the need for a formal hearing.
With many years of experience in disciplinary cases, Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Team understand the expectations of licensing boards and how to safeguard your career. They will evaluate your situation and develop a defense strategy tailored to the merits of your case.
The Lento Law Firm offers comprehensive license defense services for a wide range of medical professionals in Altoona, PA, including:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
Whether your disciplinary issue arises from a misunderstanding, a minor misstep, or a lapse in judgment, it is vital to protect your hard-earned career by addressing the complaint head-on. The Lento Law Firm Team can provide the legal representation you need to navigate the complexities of the licensing process and ensure your rights are upheld. Call today at 888-535-3686 to schedule a consultation.