The practice of medicine is one of the most highly regulated professions in the United States. All doctors, nurses, dentists, and many other medical professionals are required to hold a license in order to practice—and qualifying for that license typically requires years of education and field experience. If you're a licensed healthcare professional in Edison, NJ, you understand these requirements firsthand because it's taken you a long time to build your career.
And yet, it could all go south in an instant—with one complaint, one allegation of misconduct.
The New Jersey state licensing boards impose stringent ethical and professional standards on their licensees. They take complaints seriously, and they have sweeping power to impose disciplinary action for violations--including revoking your license entirely. And losing your license could easily mean the end of all you've worked to achieve.
When your livelihood and your career are on the line, you need an experienced Edison, New Jersey professional license defense attorney in your corner who knows how to navigate the system and fight for your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping healthcare professionals and other licensed professionals who are facing disciplinary actions in New Jersey. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
New Jersey's Disciplinary Process for Healthcare Professionals
If someone makes a complaint against you, the state licensing board that granted your professional license will also investigate the complaint and decide what disciplinary action (if any) to take. Physicians, for example, answer to the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, nurses to the State Board of Nursing, and dentists to the State Board of Dentistry. Each licensing board will have its own varied protocols, but generally speaking, the disciplinary process for complaints is quite similar for each licensed profession. If you're facing disciplinary action, here's an overview of the general process.
Most licensure investigations are initiated by complaints. Anybody can file a formal complaint with your state licensing board, but the most common sources of complaints against medical professionals are:
- Work colleagues
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud).
- Healthcare facilities
Additionally, if you were recently convicted of a crime, the courts may notify your state licensing board about this action, which may then also trigger an investigation. The board may even temporarily suspend your license while they investigate the charge.
Request for a Response
After a complaint is filed, the licensing board will inform you of the complaint and ask you to respond in writing. This is your first chance to explain what happened and why. If you give a convincing explanation and provide evidence to support your points, the board may dismiss the complaint then and there with no further action. An experienced license defense lawyer can help you write a compelling written response.
The next step in the process is for the board to launch an investigation into the complaint. In New Jersey, this typically involves appointing a Preliminary Evaluation Committee to oversee the investigation and an investigator to collect the evidence. This may involve interviews with the complainant and witnesses, requests for documents, and other fact-finding activities. The PEC may also ask you to appear and testify under oath.
As an alternative to a formal hearing, the board might offer to negotiate a consent order with you. A consent order is a binding agreement in which you acknowledge your wrongdoings and agree to adhere to the disciplinary actions imposed by the board. Although consent orders are not the best option in every case, they can be a viable option if there is strong evidence against you, especially if it offers a route to reinstate your license. A license defense attorney can negotiate the best terms for a consent order. Never agree to a consent order without consulting an attorney first.
If the investigation produces evidence to support the complaint, and if no consent order is offered or signed, the licensing board will file a formal complaint with the state against your license. You will then be summoned to a formal hearing to show cause why the board should not suspend or revoke your license. The hearing will be presided over by an Administrative Law Judge. You may have an attorney represent you, and both sides will present evidence. When the hearing concludes, the judge will make a recommendation to the board as to the appropriate disciplinary action against you, up to and including the complete revocation of your license.
Healthcare Institutions in Edison, NJ
Located in the suburbs of southwest New York City, the Township of Edison is a populous residential/commercial area serving as home to 107,000 people, named for Thomas Edison, who had his home and research lab here. As part of a thriving and growing suburban area of NYC, the area in and around Edison is home to numerous hospitals and healthcare facilities. These facilities take the credentials of their staff seriously, and license investigations could lead to suspension or termination in some cases.
Main healthcare systems serving the area in and around Edison include, but are not limited to:
Hackensack Meridian Health
As the largest integrated healthcare network in New Jersey, Hackensack Meridian Health operates 17 hospitals and more than 500 patient care centers across the region. Hackensack Meridien operates the JFK University Medical Center in north Edison, one of the largest hospitals in the region.
RWJBarnabas Health is another of New Jersey's major healthcare systems, operating dozens of hospitals and care facilities across the area. Most notably, RWJBarnabas Health operates the sprawling Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital campus in nearby New Brunswick, serving as the flagship cancer hospital for Rutgers University while offering Level 1 Trauma services and extensive children's care through the Children's Specialized Hospital.
Why You Need an Edison, NJ Professional License Defense Attorney
The state licensing boards in New Jersey are very strict, especially when it comes to doctors, nurses, and other members of the healthcare professions. They take every allegation of misconduct seriously, and they are committed to protecting the public against bad actors. Unfortunately, this also means that you're not necessarily "presumed innocent" as in a court of law where you were accused of a crime. As soon as a complaint is filed, the board begins looking for evidence against you--including anything you might say or do during the investigation.
Licensed professionals frequently fail to recognize the gravity of having a complaint against their license. They feel they can simply explain the situation to the licensing board and that everything will be fine, not realizing that they are entering the disciplinary process at a distinct disadvantage. The state licensing board only needs to use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard to decide whether you are guilty of the accusation--meaning they only have to be convinced that you're more than 50 percent likely to have done it. That's a precarious situation to be in when your entire career depends on the board's decision!
Having an experienced license defense attorney by your side during a license investigation can level the playing field and give you a fairer chance at having your side heard. In many cases, an attorney's intervention is all that is needed to resolve a complaint before it escalates into disciplinary action. A qualified attorney will significantly improve your position during a board hearing and potentially prevent you from losing your license.
An experienced Edison professional license defense attorney can:
- Review the complaint against you and help you develop an appropriate defense.
- Write a persuasive written response to the complaint, thereby improving your chances of having the complaint dismissed.
- Act as your legal representative in all interactions with the board.
- Gather evidence and get testimonies from witnesses who can attest to the truth.
- Negotiate with the licensing board directly to have the complaint dismissed or for lesser penalties.
- If necessary, defend you at a formal hearing.
Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your Professional License in Edison, NJ
You must adhere to strict ethical and behavior standards in order to maintain your professional license in New Jersey. Thus, most complaints that can cause your license to be revoked have to do with alleged violations of state regulations, ethics, or public trust. Here are the most common offenses that can lead to disciplinary action from a licensing board.
Fraud encompasses a variety of misleading and deceitful practices that include:
- False advertising
- Misrepresenting your credentials (e.g., posing as a doctor when you aren't licensed as one)
- Perform services outside the scope of your license
- Overbilling patients or insurance
- "Upcoding" procedures covered by insurance to get more money
- Falsification of patient diagnosis
- Accepting kickbacks
Gross Abuse or Neglect
This includes any neglect, abuse, or other behavior that could put a patient's health at risk. Examples include:
- Any kind of abuse (e.g., sexual, physical, or emotional)
- "Unintentional" abuse (e.g., forcing a patient beyond their emotional/physical limits)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors (for example, prescribing the wrong medication, prescribing the wrong dose of medication, performing unnecessary procedures, or conducting procedures in an unsafe or inappropriate manner).
Inappropriate handling of controlled substances
Although this violation can also be considered a medical error, it should be recognized as an individual category. Examples include:
- Overprescribing medications with a high risk of addiction (e.g., opiates)
- Inadequate inventory tracking and record keeping
- Pilfering medications for personal use or street sales
- Dispensing medication without a prescription
- Prescribing medications without a legitimate reason or diagnosis.
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
Medical professionals must not have romantic or sexual relationships with the patients they care for. This is a serious violation of the code of ethics and can easily result in loss of license. Likewise, your license can be revoked over allegations of sexual harassment, sexual assault, or other inappropriate sexual behavior toward patients, colleagues, etc.
Keeping accurate records is a key element of patient safety, so discrepancies in record-keeping are taken very seriously. Examples include falsifying or altering patient records, inadequate storage, and organization, or compromising a patient's confidential information.
Failure to follow protocols or instructions for patient care
This includes failing to follow a doctor's orders regarding patient treatment or failing to refer a person for specialist care when medically necessary.
If you consume alcohol to excess or abuse prescription or illegal drugs, your license may be revoked as a result. Substance abuse is considered unacceptable by most licensing boards as it could compromise your ability to care for patients safely.
You may lose your professional license in New Jersey if you are convicted of certain crimes, especially crimes of moral turpitude or crimes directly related to your profession. You must also report any criminal conviction to your state licensing board; failing to do so could also result in disciplinary action.
Professional License Defense at Edison, New Jersey
As a doctor, dentist, anesthesiologist, nurse, PA, or another licensed professional in Edison, NJ, your career hinges almost entirely on your license. A single complaint could trigger an investigation by your state licensing board, potentially ending your career. An Edison license defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento can greatly reduce the risk of damage to your license. The Lento Law Firm can help with licensing defense issues for any of these professionals in Edison, NJ:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
If you're notified of a complaint against your license, act now to protect your career. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.