The practice of medicine is a rewarding profession, but it's also a demanding and challenging one. As a licensed physician, nurse, physician assistant, anesthesiologist, dentist, or another medical professional in Camden, NJ, you've paid a high price to get your career established. But what happens when things go wrong, and you find yourself facing disciplinary action from the state board that issued your license? Because medical careers rely on high ethics and public trust, all it may take is a single mistake, a lapse in judgment, or a blatantly false accusation to put your license in jeopardy and your career as well.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Camden, NJ
Whether you've been accused of gross negligence, fraud, sexual misconduct, or otherwise violating your state board's professional code of conduct, it's important to take immediate action to protect your rights and your future. The first step is to contact an experienced professional license defense attorney who can help you navigate the complicated disciplinary process ahead. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey professional license defense attorney who represents healthcare professionals in Camden, NJ, who are facing potential disciplinary action against their license to practice. If you are facing an investigation or disciplinary hearing, contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your options.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Camden, NJ
When you're a healthcare professional accused of wrongdoing or misconduct, the licensing board that issued your license will handle the investigation and disciplinary process. For example, here in New Jersey, physicians answer to the Board of Medical Examiners (BME); for nurses, it's the Board of Nursing (BON); for dentists, it's the State Board of Dentistry; and so on. Although the policies and procedures vary slightly from one board to the next, most disciplinary investigations against licensed medical professionals will follow a similar process. If you've been notified of allegations against you, here's the disciplinary path for New Jersey in a nutshell.
In almost all cases, disciplinary actions begin with a formal complaint filed against you with your state licensing board. Complaints may come from almost any viable source, including, but not limited to:
- Insurers (generally in cases involving suspected fraud)
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Healthcare entities
- Court clerks (when the court reports a criminal conviction that appears on your record)
Notification/request for response
When the board receives a complaint against you, their first course of action is to send you a formal written notification of the complaint and to request a written response to the complaint. This is your first opportunity to give your side of the story. In many cases, a detailed written explanation of the facts and what transpired (backed with any evidence you provide) may be enough to convince the board that no further action is necessary. A skilled license defense attorney can be very beneficial in helping you draft a compelling response.
The next step in the process is a comprehensive investigation. The board may appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to oversee the process; they may also appoint an investigator to conduct the legwork. The inquiry will most likely include interviews with you and any relevant individuals (including the person who made the complaint against you), as well as subpoenas of relevant medical records and documentation and other fact-finding measures. The board may also request your appearance before the PEC to answer questions under oath.
If the board's investigation reveals enough evidence of misconduct to warrant disciplinary action, they may attempt to negotiate a consent order with you as an alternative to taking the matter into a formal hearing before a judge. A consent order is a legally binding agreement between the state, the board, and you, in which you effectively admit to wrongdoing and agree upon a set of prescribed sanctions. These may include suspending your license, mandatory courses, treatment for substance abuse (if applicable), and other remedies. A consent order may or may not include a path toward reinstatement, but if properly negotiated, it can leave you in a better position to restore your career once you have met the conditions.
Formal complaint and hearing
If a settlement is not reached, the board will file a formal complaint against you with the state, at which point you'll be summoned to a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. At this hearing, the board will present their evidence against you, and you'll have an opportunity to respond with your own evidence and testimony. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing. The burden of proof for the board is fairly low, and the judge can rule against you based on a preponderance of the evidence (meaning the board has to prove that it's at least 51 percent likely that you committed the offense). At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will rule based on the evidence and applicable laws and make specific recommendations for disciplinary actions—up to and including revoking your license to practice.
Why You Need an Attorney
It's important to understand that at any point in the disciplinary process up to the hearing, the licensing board can decide not to impose disciplinary action based on the evidence, your responses, and your level of cooperation. However, any attempts to resolve the matter "informally" simply by "explaining the situation" generally don't play well with the board. Having a professional license attorney involved early in the process gives you multiple opportunities to present the facts in an organized and compelling manner, improving your chances that the board will either dismiss the complaint entirely or be open to negotiating lesser penalties that allow you to keep your license.
A good Camden license defense attorney can help you in any/all of the following ways:
- Evaluate the complaint against you and compile evidence and witnesses to refute it
- Act as your official legal representative in all interactions with the board
- Help draft your initial written response to the complaint in a compelling manner
- Negotiate with the board to dismiss the complaint, forego disciplinary action, or agree to lesser penalties
- Negotiate favorable terms for a consent order as an alternative to a hearing
- Defend you in a formal hearing, if the process extends to that point
Healthcare Institutions in Camden, NJ
Camden, NJ, is home to two major hospital healthcare systems as well as dozens of primary care clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, and dental offices across the city. These institutions have high standards when it comes to the professional and ethical conduct of their staff. They will take your professional licensure seriously, and disciplinary action against your license may either disqualify you from employment or be cause for termination. The largest healthcare systems in Camden, New Jersey, include:
Cooper University Health Care
Considered the premier academic health system for the region, Cooper University Health Care is a leading provider of comprehensive, compassionate care in southern New Jersey. The system includes Cooper University Hospital, MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, and extensive primary and specialty care practices throughout the region.
Cooper's main facilities are found within Cooper Plaza in downtown Camden. Facilities include:
- Cooper University Hospital, One Cooper Plaza
- MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper, Two Cooper Plaza
- Sheridan Pavilion, Three Cooper Plaza
One of the largest healthcare systems in the state, Virtua is a comprehensive provider of health services in southern New Jersey, with five major hospitals and more than 270 additional locations across Jersey and Philadelphia, ranging from primary care clinics to urgent care centers to health and wellness facilities. In Camden, Virtua operates Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital at 1600 Haddon Avenue, plus multiple other facilities across the city.
CAMCare Health Corporation
With seven distinct locations (five of which are within Camden city limits), CAMCare is Camden's largest provider of primary care and dental services within the city. They offer a wide range of health services, including adult health, pediatric, behavioral health, women's health, eye health, and dental.
Common Offenses or Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your License
The healthcare professions rely heavily on public trust, and for that reason, the State of New Jersey holds these professions to high standards of professionalism and ethics. In most cases, an allegation that could cost you your license will have something to do with a violation of either the state's code of conduct or the public trust. The most common accusations that can trigger disciplinary action include, but are not limited to:
Healthcare fraud encompasses a wide range of actions. Some examples include:
- Overbilling patients or insurance
- "Upcoding" procedures with incorrect insurance codes to get more money
- Falsifying patient diagnoses for insurance reasons
- Billing the patient or insurance for services not performed
- Operating outside the scope of your license (i.e., performing services you're not qualified to perform)
- Accepting kickbacks for patient referrals
- Altering a patient's medical records (e.g., for insurance reasons or to mask a medical error)
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This catch-all category includes any type of abuse or neglect that jeopardizes a patient's safety, health, or well-being. Examples include:
- Physical abuse (e.g., hitting, sexual assault)
- Emotional abuse (e.g., verbally berating or threatening a patient)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g., pushing a patient past their limitations)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors
"Medical errors" is a broad term that can refer to anything from a simple mistake (e.g., prescribing the wrong medication) to gross negligence (e.g., performing the wrong surgery on a patient).
Inappropriate dispensation/handling of medicine
If you're accused of prescribing or dispensing medications irresponsibly or outside the scope of your license, your career may be in jeopardy. You can also be disciplined for inaccurate inventory/tracking, pilfering drugs for personal use, and similar offenses.
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is highly unethical for a medical professional to have a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient they are treating. Other examples of sexual misconduct may include unwanted sexual advances (toward patients or colleagues), sexual harassment, sexual assault, etc. Such actions almost always result in the loss of a license, and even a false accusation could put you in jeopardy because the licensing boards take these matters so seriously.
Keeping sloppy records
In the healthcare industry, accurate and complete documentation is key to patient safety. Your license may be at risk if you're accused of maintaining sloppy or incomplete patient records or of falsifying records for any reason.
The use of illegal drugs, prescription medication misuse, and excessive alcohol abuse can all jeopardize your professional license because substance abuse calls into question your aptitude for treating patients safely. Furthermore, If a coworker suspects you of substance abuse, he or she has an ethical duty to inform the board--especially if you are observed under the influence while on the job.
Certain criminal offenses may constitute a violation of state rules and may put your license in jeopardy--especially offenses such as DWI or crimes of moral turpitude. You are also obligated to report any criminal conviction to your licensing board, and if you don't, you could face disciplinary action even if your offense wouldn't have otherwise resulted in discipline.
Professional License Defense for Licensed Healthcare Professionals in Camden, New Jersey
The Law Office of Joseph D. Lento has plenty of experience defending licensed healthcare professionals in Camden and other parts of New Jersey who may be facing disciplinary action. We can help you if you are licensed to practice in any of the following capacities:
- Physician (M.D. or D.O)
- Nurse practitioner
- Physician assistant
- Physical therapist
- Mental health professionals
- Other licensed healthcare professions
If you are a Camden healthcare professional facing disciplinary action from your licensing board, the first thing you should do is contact an experienced attorney who can help you protect your rights and your livelihood. The consequences of a license revocation or suspension can be devastating, so it's important to have an advocate on your side who knows how to navigate the system and who will fight for you. Whether your case is in the investigation stage or you're summoned to a formal hearing, attorney Joseph D. Lento will work tirelessly to build a strong defense on your behalf and protect your rights.
We know how important your career is to you, and we'll do everything in our power to help you keep your license. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation right away.