If you're a licensed physician, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, or another medical professional in Harrisburg, PA, you've already paid a high price to establish your career. You've invested time and money into your schooling, spent countless hours gaining field experience, and sat for difficult exams to qualify for your license or certification. That license is the key that unlocks professional opportunities and allows you to provide services to patients in Harrisburg and beyond.
Unfortunately, it may take only a single complaint to put all you've worked for into jeopardy. Whether it was a misunderstanding, a mistake, or a lapse in judgment, your state licensing board has an obligation to protect the public trust, and they have broad authority to suspend or revoke the licenses of those they believe have violated their standards of care. Any disciplinary action taken against your license could hurt your professional reputation. And if your license is revoked, it could mean the end of your career.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Harrisburg, PA
Fortunately, there's another option. Attorney Joseph D. Lento brings many years of experience to his professional license defense services for medical professionals in Harrisburg, PA. He and his team can help you fight to protect your license and avoid the serious consequences that come with disciplinary action. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
A License Investigation Can Disrupt Your Career
If your license is under investigation, you may be facing a long and difficult road ahead. A single complaint can spark an extended licensing board inquiry that requires you to invest time and energy into responding to requests for information, attending hearings and interviews, and so on. During this process, your focus may be diverted from providing care to your patients to protecting your career, leaving you open to potential financial losses. Additionally, the mere suggestion that you have committed misconduct can hurt your professional reputation, and even if you avoid losing your license, it could take years to rebuild your reputation and/or your practice. And, of course, because the Board has the ability to find you guilty only on a preponderance of the evidence, you could easily face fines, probation, or even loss of license even if there's no definitive proof that you committed wrongdoing.
By engaging a skilled license defense lawyer as soon as possible, you can greatly improve the likelihood of minimizing any harm to your reputation or profession. Taking this action swiftly gives you the best opportunity to come to a positive resolution so you can get on with your career.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Harrisburg, PA
Pennsylvania has instituted a fairly streamlined system for processing complaints against licensed professionals, including healthcare professionals. If you find yourself facing allegations as a medical professional, the process will progress through the following stages.
Almost all disciplinary actions against licensed professionals are triggered with an initial complaint, which is processed by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Most complaints against healthcare professionals are filed by:
- Other practitioners
- Insurers (in cases of suspected fraud)
- Healthcare facilities
Upon receiving a complaint, the BPOA assigns an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to conduct a search for supportive evidence. The research may include interviewing anyone associated with this complaint, issuing subpoenas for pertinent documents, or any other activity that helps institute fact-finding measures. You may also be requested by BEI to submit your written statement in response to the reported incident.
If the BEI investigator finds sufficient evidence to warrant disciplinary action against you, the board may offer to negotiate a consent agreement with you as an alternative to a formal hearing. This is a legally binding agreement in which you voluntarily submit to the board's recommended disciplinary actions against you. Although it is not advisable to sign a consent agreement in all cases, if disciplinary action appears unavoidable, this may be your most suitable option— particularly if you can work with an attorney to include provisions that permit you to retain your license or provide for potential reinstatement.
If you opt to dispute the claims or decide not to sign a consent agreement, you will be summoned to appear at an official hearing in front of a state examiner. You will be asked to show cause why your license should not be revoked, and you may have an attorney present with you. Once the hearing has ended, the examiner will make recommendations as to disciplinary actions against you, up to and including revoking your license.
Why You Need an Experienced Harrisburg License Defense Attorney
Practitioners accused of misconduct are often unaware of the severity of their situation. They think that if they simply offer an explanation to the licensing board, then it should be sufficient, and everything will turn out in their favor. However, in Pennsylvania, maintaining public safety comes before any other considerations for the board--not helping a licensee. There is no guaranteed presumption of innocence in license discipline cases, and the board only needs to be convinced that you are 51 percent likely to have committed the offense to find you at fault and impose disciplinary action. Without skilled legal counsel, you're coming into the process at a disadvantage.
With the assistance of a Pennsylvania license defense lawyer who is experienced and well-versed in this area, you can get on equal footing and improve your chances of getting an outcome that minimizes the damage and allows you to keep your license. Your attorney can:
- Analyze the complaint made against you and create an effective defense plan
- Serve as your official legal counsel for all conversations with the board or BPOA
- Collect proof and gather witnesses to support your defense
- Negotiate at different points with the board to have the complaint dropped or at least reduce any consequences associated with it
- Advocate on your behalf during a formal hearing, if necessary
Healthcare Facilities in Harrisburg, PA
The state capital of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg, is home to just over 50,000 people, but the greater metropolitan area surrounding it is home to nearly 600,000. As a result, this area is served by numerous healthcare facilities, including hospitals, outpatient clinics, specialty services, and more, to take care of the health needs of this populous area. These healthcare organizations are committed to setting the standard of ethical and professional responsibility for their physicians, nurses, and other employees. If any claims arise that violate these standards (such as with a license investigation), it could result in termination.
Main health systems serving the Harrisburg area include:
The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) is a 130-year-old institution that has grown from a single hospital in Pittsburgh to one of the largest healthcare providers and insurers in the region. UPMC now administers 40 hospitals and hundreds of other facilities across multiple states. The UPMC Harrisburg hospital is the primary acute-care hospital in Harrisburg.
Penn State Health
Not to be confused with Penn Health, Penn State Health is a regional healthcare system administering multiple hospitals and other facilities across 29 counties in Pennsylvania. In the Harrisburg area, Penn State Health operates the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in nearby Hershey, PA.
Common Allegations that Put Healthcare Licenses at Risk
Because the practice of medicine relies heavily on public trust, healthcare professionals in Pennsylvania are held to high standards of ethical and professional excellence to maintain that trust. Likewise, every licensing board has its own code of conduct to ensure its licensees uphold these standards. Most allegations that could put your license in jeopardy, therefore, have something to do with violating board regulations, ethical/professional violations, or breaches of public trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
Fraudulent behaviors can take many forms, including can encompass a variety of behaviors, including, but not limited to:
- Misrepresenting your credentials
- Billing patients or insurance for services or procedures not provided
- "Upcoding" insurance claims for higher payouts
- Illegally altering medical records
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- False advertising
Engaging in a romantic/sexual relationship with a patient you're treating is a severe ethical breach and is often grounds for revoking your license to practice. Other forms of sexual misconduct include making unwanted sexual advances or sexually harassing coworkers, employees, patients, etc.
Inappropriate prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances
When medical substances are improperly administered, they can have grave repercussions for the patient. For that reason, prescription medications are highly regulated, and violating these rules can endanger your license. Examples of improper handling of medications include:
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
- Prescribing medicines without a legitimate medical justification
- Prescribing addictive medications (e.g., opioids) in suspicious amounts
- Keeping inaccurate inventories of medications
- Diverting patient medicines for personal use
If you have been found guilty of a criminal offense, this could result in disciplinary action from the licensing board. The magnitude and nature of punishment depend on how serious the crime is; however, crimes involving moral turpitude or those directly associated with your profession are more likely to lead to license revocation or suspension.
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This category refers to a wide range of behaviors, including abusing patients physically or emotionally, neglecting patients in need of care, discriminating against patients, grossly incorrect patient diagnoses, violating patient privacy, performing unnecessary procedures, or performing procedures in a way that puts the patient at unnecessary risk.
When it comes to healthcare professionals, abusing drugs and alcohol can be a ruinous mistake that erodes credibility and raises questions about one's judgment while caring for patients.
Accurate record-keeping is essential for any medical practice, both to ensure compliance with regulations and to ensure the safe treatment of patients. Examples of poor record-keeping include:
- Gross inaccuracies on patient records (e.g., regarding treatment, medications, etc.)
- Making false entries in patient records
- Falsifying or altering medical records or documents
Failing to follow treatment guidelines
If you fail to follow a physician's directions when caring for their patient, or if you neglect to refer someone to a specialist when their condition calls for it, then serious disciplinary action could be taken against you that may even include revoking your license.
When to Hire an Attorney
The moment a complaint is lodged against your medical license, the licensing board starts collecting evidence to support those accusations. By the time you get to the hearing stage, they have already put together an effective argument against you. Therefore, it's in your best interests to consult a qualified healthcare license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble--preferably as soon as you receive notice of a complaint. The sooner an attorney gets involved, the better your chances of a favorable outcome. A good attorney can often intervene in the early stages of an investigation to resolve the complaint before it ever gets to the hearing stage. In short, by hiring an attorney early, you have a much better chance of emerging from the disciplinary process with your license intact.
Professional License Defense in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
As a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, dentist, or another healthcare practitioner in Harrisburg, PA, an allegation of misconduct can endanger your reputation, your license, and your entire career. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and his team can work on your behalf to ensure you receive fair treatment and the best outcome possible, in many cases getting unfair complaints dismissed entirely. The Lento Law Firm can help any of the following licensed professionals in Harrisburg, PA:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Additional licensed professionals
If you've been accused of professional wrongdoing, don't risk your future by facing the disciplinary process alone. Take steps now to protect your career. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.