Whether you're a doctor, dentist, nurse, or another type of healthcare provider, being a licensed health professional in Jersey City can be a highly rewarding career. At the same time, it can leave you feeling very exposed and vulnerable, especially if someone files a complaint against your license. In New Jersey, all it may take is a single allegation of misconduct to threaten all you've worked for. New Jersey state licensing boards hold their professionals to high standards of ethical and professional excellence. They have sweeping authority to suspend or revoke licenses of those it believes have violated the public trust.
If you find yourself in this situation, it's important to have an experienced licensed defense attorney on your side to ensure your interests are protected. Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey-based attorney with significant expertise in defending healthcare professionals and other licensed professionals who have been accused of wrongdoing. Take steps now to protect your license and your livelihood. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Healthcare Professionals in Jersey City, NJ
The state licensing board that granted your professional license will also investigate claims against you and determine what disciplinary action, if any, to take. For example, if you're a physician, you'll answer to the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners; if you're a nurse, it's the State Board of Nursing; and if you're a dentist, it's the State Board of Dentistry. Most professional licensees go through the same disciplinary procedure when it comes to complaints against their license, although each board's procedures and rules may vary somewhat. Here's a summary of the typical stages involved in the disciplinary process.
Most licensure investigations begin with a complaint. Anyone can file a formal complaint against you with your state licensing board, although the most common sources of complaints include:
- Healthcare facilities
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud)
One other possible trigger of disciplinary action is if you are convicted of a crime. The courts will usually send an automatic notice to your licensing board, which in turn will launch an investigation.
Request for response
Upon receiving the complaint, the licensing board will send you a notice of the complaint and ask you to send a response in writing. This is your first chance to tell your story and give context for the complaint. If you offer a convincing explanation and provide evidence to support your points, the board may not take further action. An experienced license defense lawyer can help you to draft a persuasive written response.
If the board is not convinced by your written response (or if you do not respond), the next step is to launch a full investigation. A Preliminary Evaluation Committee is usually appointed and an investigator is assigned to supervise the investigation. Interviews with you and the other parties involved (i.e. the person who filed your complaint against you), subpoenas to obtain medical records and documentation, and other fact-finding activities are likely. During this stage of the investigation, it is possible that you will be called to testify under oath before the committee.
The board might attempt to negotiate a consent order instead of a formal hearing if they find enough evidence to warrant disciplinary action. A consent order is a legally binding agreement where you acknowledge wrongdoing and agree to abide by any disciplinary actions recommended by the board. Sometimes, a consent order may include a route to reinstatement of your license, particularly if it is negotiated by a skilled license defense attorney.
If no consent order is offered or agreed to, the licensing board will file a formal complaint against your license with the state. The case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge. Both you and the board's lawyers will have the opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses. When the hearing concludes, the ALJ will submit a recommendation to the licensing board regarding disciplinary action against your license, up to and including revoking your license completely.
Why You Need a Jersey City Professional License Defense Attorney
Licensed medical professionals often fail to grasp the severity of having a complaint lodged against their license. They mistakenly believe that they can simply explain themselves to the board and the matter will be resolved. The thing to remember is that the job of the licensing board is to protect the public, not the license holder. The board takes allegations of misconduct seriously, and they have sweeping authority to issue disciplinary action with a relatively low burden of proof. In fact, they can find you guilty of misconduct based only on a preponderance of the evidence--meaning they only have to believe you are more than 50 percent likely to have committed wrongdoing to suspend or revoke your license! Furthermore, they will weigh everything you say and do after receiving the complaint as possible evidence against you. This puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
Having a skilled license defense attorney in your corner effectively levels the playing field--and in many cases, an attorney's intervention can resolve a complaint before it escalates into disciplinary action. An attorney with specific experience with New Jersey state licensing boards will understand how the disciplinary process works and how to position you for the best advantage. A competent attorney will increase your odds of the board either throwing out the complaint or accepting a lighter punishment that won't involve losing your license.
An experienced Jersey City professional license defense attorney can:
- Act as your official legal representative in all interactions with the board.
- Review the complaint against you and strategize an effective defense.
- Draft a convincing written response to the complaint, giving you the best chance of having it dismissed.
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your defense.
- Negotiate with the board to have the complaint dismissed, for lesser penalties, or for favorable terms in a consent order.
- Defend you in the formal hearing, if necessary.
Healthcare Institutions in Jersey City, NJ
Located along the banks of the Hudson River opposite Manhattan, Jersey City is the second most populous city in New Jersey, second only to nearby Newark. As one of the busiest suburbs of the New York City area, Jersey City is served by several hospitals and numerous outpatient clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, and dental offices. These organizations hold their healthcare professionals to high standards, both professionally and ethically, and they place great importance on the validity of your professional license. If you are accused of misconduct, you could lose your job, especially if your professional license is in jeopardy.
Hospitals and healthcare systems in Jersey City include, but are not limited to:
RWJBarnabas Health is one of New Jersey's premier healthcare systems, and by far the largest healthcare provider in Jersey City. They operate the 15-acre campus of Jersey City Medical Center, which offers the region's most comprehensive array of services. They also administer numerous outpatient facilities across the area, including the Cristie Kerr Women's Health Center, Jersey City Medical Center Rehabilitation Services, and the Jersey City Family Health Center, among others.
CarePoint Health is a non-profit healthcare organization serving the needs of patients across Hudson County. They operate Christ Hospital, which has been in existence in Jersey City since 1872. They also operate several outpatient facilities across Jersey City and Hudson County.
Allegations or Offenses that Could Put Your Professional License In Danger
New Jersey's state licensing boards require their licensees to adhere to strict professional and ethical standards. Most claims that can lead to you losing your license will be based on a violation of ethics, a violation of public trust, or a violation of state regulations. These are some of the most common offenses that could result in disciplinary action by a licensing board.
Fraud encompasses a variety of deceitful practices, including, but not limited to:
- Overbilling patients or their insurance
- "Upcoding" procedures to get higher insurance payouts
- Billing the patient or insurer for services not rendered
- Falsifying patient diagnoses
- Operating outside the scope of your license
- Accepting kickbacks
Gross neglect or abuse
This category encompasses any neglect or abuse that could endanger the safety and well-being of a patient. Examples include:
- Physical and/or sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse (e.g. verbally intimidating, berating, or threatening patients)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g. pushing a patient beyond their emotional/physical limits)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors (e.g., prescribing the wrong medication/dosage, performing unnecessary procedures)
Incorrect dispensing of controlled substances
Although this violation could also be classified as a medical mistake, it is significant enough to be recognized as its own category. Examples of this offense include:
- Overprescribing certain medications (e.g. opioids)
- Sloppy record-keeping or inventory tracking of medications
- Pilfering prescription meds for personal use or gain (e.g., taking meds yourself or selling them on the black market)
- Dispensing medication in an otherwise reckless manner
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
Doctors are ethically prohibited from having romantic or sexual relationships with persons they are treating. Unwelcome sexual advances (toward coworkers or patients), sexual harassment, and sexual assault are other examples of inappropriate sexual behavior, which typically leads to loss of license.
Patient safety is of the utmost importance in the healthcare industry, and accurate patient records are crucial to ensure that safety. If you're accused of falsifying patient documents, keeping them in an untidy or cursory manner, or breaching patient confidentiality, your license may be at risk.
Not following the treatment recommendations
If you're accused of ignoring another doctor's suggestions, your license could be at risk. This might mean not referring patients to specialists when it's medically required or not following a referred doctor's orders.
You could easily lose your license over excessive alcohol consumption or abuse of prescription or illegal drugs. Substance abuse has the potential to jeopardize your ability to properly care for patients and therefore is considered an unacceptable risk by most licensing boards.
In certain states, being convicted of certain crimes disqualifies you from holding a professional license, especially if it's a DWI, a crime directly related to your practice, or a crime of moral turpitude. You could also face disciplinary action for failing to disclose a recent conviction to the board.
Professional License Defense in Jersey City, New Jersey
Any allegation of misconduct against a Jersey City-based healthcare professional can trigger an investigation by your respective licensing board. If enough evidence is uncovered to support the complaint, your license could be suspended or revoked, potentially ending your career. Your best bet for avoiding this outcome is to hire an experienced Jersey City professional license defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento. The Lento Law Firm can assist in license defense for any of the following professionals in Jersey City, NJ:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
If you have been accused of misconduct or a violation, we can help to preserve your professional license and livelihood. Take action now to secure your future. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.