You've established a lucrative profession that depends on the public's confidence—and you've spent a lot of time and money developing that trust. If you're a licensed physician, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, or another medical professional working in Newark, New Jersey, you've forged a solid career out of providing care to people who need it. And yet, all it may take is a single allegation of misconduct to throw all you've worked for into jeopardy.
Medical professionals in Newark, NJ are held to high professional and ethical standards. Any accusation of misconduct can threaten your career. If you are facing an investigation or disciplinary action by the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners, the New Jersey Board of Nursing, or any other professional licensing board, you need an experienced licensed defense attorney on your side.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Newark, NJ
Regardless of whether you're charged with insurance fraud, substance abuse, gross carelessness, abuse, or any other violation, taking quick action in response to a complaint affords your greatest chance of keeping your license. The first step is to engage the services of a legal professional who specializes in license defense and can defend your rights, advise you through the complicated procedure, and safeguard your interests. Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey-based professional license defense lawyer with a lot of experience dealing with disciplinary issues that medical professionals frequently face. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Healthcare Professionals in Newark, NJ
In New Jersey, the state licensing board that granted your professional license will also investigate allegations against you and determine what disciplinary action to take, if any. If you're a doctor, for example, the Board of Medical Examiners will handle your case; if a nurse, the Board of Nursing; if a dentist, the State Board of Dentistry, etc. When it comes to complaints against their license, most professional licensees face a similar disciplinary process, though each board's processes and rules may differ slightly. Here's an overview of the typical steps involved.
Most of the time, a formal complaint is what initiates a disciplinary board process against you. Almost anyone can file a complaint against you, but the most common sources include:
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud)
- Healthcare facilities
Additionally, the courts will typically notify your licensing board if you have been recently convicted of a crime, which may also trigger an investigation.
Request for response
The board's first step in dealing with a complaint is to send you a letter notifying you of the problem and asking for your written response. This is your first opportunity to give your side of the story and provide context for the complaint. The board may not take any further action if you can offer a compelling explanation, especially if you provide evidence to back it up. A skilled license defense lawyer can help you draft a compelling response.
If your written response to the complaint fails to appease the board (or if you don't respond), the board will then launch a full investigation, usually by appointing a Preliminary Evaluation Committee and an investigator to oversee the details of the investigation. The investigation will likely entail interviews with you and other relevant parties (i.e., the person who filed the complaint against you), subpoenas for medical records and documentation, among other fact-finding activities. You may be asked to testify before the PEC during this phase of the investigation.
If the board uncovers enough evidence against you to validate the complaint, they might try to negotiate a consent order instead of going through with a formal hearing. A consent order is a legally binding agreement in which you effectively acknowledge wrongdoing and agree to abide by whatever disciplinary actions the board recommends. A consent order can sometimes include a pathway to reinstatement of your license, especially when a licensed defense attorney negotiates it.
If the complaint is not resolved through negotiations or by a consent order, the licensing board will file a formal complaint against you with the state. The case will go to a formal hearing, where an Administrative Law Judge will preside and both you and the board's attorneys will have an opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses. The board does not have to find you guilty definitively, but they use the standard of preponderance of the evidence—meaning they only have to prove you are 51 percent likely to have committed the offense.
After the hearing, the ALJ will make a recommendation to the licensing board, who will then make the final decision on your case as to whether to impose disciplinary action--up to and including revoking your license.
Why Having a Professional License Defense Attorney Matters
Medical and other professionals often downplay accusations of misconduct, failing to see how serious the problem could be. They mistakenly believe that they can simply explain themselves to the board and the matter will be resolved. However, the thing to realize is that the licensing board is not on your side. Their job is to protect the public, and they have broad authority to invoke discipline and a low burden of proof to show you did something wrong. Without the assistance of a competent attorney, it's considerably more likely that the board will take the side of caution and revoke your license. And everything you say or do while your license is under investigation may be used against you.
On the other hand, if you can prove that the complaint filed against you is erroneous or false, or if the board can see that you're not a threat to public trust, they have the power to disregard the complaint. In situations like this, it can be very helpful to have a skilled professional licensed defense attorney on your side--someone who understands the disciplinary process and how to give you the best chance of a favorable outcome. Having a good attorney greatly boosts your chances that the board will either dismiss the complaint or agree to a lesser penalty that enables you to keep your license.
An experienced Newark professional license defense attorney can do all of the following to help you:
- Be your legal representative in all interactions with the board.
- Evaluate the complaint against you and develop a strategy to counter it.
- Draft a compelling written response to give you the best chance of having the complaint dismissed.
- Negotiate with the board at numerous points to either have the complaint dismissed or for lesser penalties.
- Negotiate the most advantageous terms for a consent order to avoid formal hearing.
- Defend you in the formal hearing, if necessary.
Healthcare Institutions in Newark, NJ
Home to over 300,000 people, Newark is New Jersey's largest city and one of the most populous suburbs of the New York City area. It is home to the Newark International Airport, as well as one of the busiest port hubs within the New York Port Authority. As such, Newark is served by several hospitals and numerous healthcare systems, including clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, and dental offices. These organizations are particular about the professional and ethical behavior of their healthcare professionals, and they take the validity of your professional license very seriously. Allegations of impropriety may lead to the loss of your job, especially if your professional license is at risk.
Hospitals and healthcare systems in Newark, New Jersey include:
One of the largest health systems in eastern New Jersey, Barnabas Health operates the city's largest hospital complex, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, along with dozens of clinics and specialty health centers across the region.
St. Michael's Medical Center
Newark's oldest hospital (established in 1867), St. Michael's offers a comprehensive array of inpatient and outpatient services. Originally founded by the Franciscan Sisters of the poor, St. Michael's is now operated by Prime Healthcare.
A teaching hospital of Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences, University Hospital is home to Newark's only Level 1 trauma center.
Silver Lake Hospital
Formerly Columbus Hospital, Silver Lake Hospital focuses on long-term acute care and complex health issues in the Newark area.
Newark Community Health Centers
Offering affordable healthcare to those who need it most, Newark Community Health Centers operates facilities in several locations across the Newark area.
Allegations or Offenses that Could Put Your Professional License In Jeopardy
New Jersey's state licensing boards hold healthcare professionals to high professional and ethical standards. Most claims that could result in you losing your license are based on a violation of state regulations, an ethics violation, or a violation of public trust. These are some of the most common offenses that can lead to disciplinary action from a licensing board.
Fraud can include a variety of shady practices. Some examples include:
- Overbilling patients or their insurance
- "Upcoding" practices to get higher payouts from insurance
- Falsifying patient diagnoses
- Billing the patient or insurer for services not rendered
- Operating outside the scope of your license
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Modifying or altering a patient's medical records (e.g. to hide an error or to obtain insurance coverage).
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This broad category covers any kind of neglect or abuse that may jeopardize the safety or well-being of a patient. Examples include:
- Physical abuse (e.g. hitting, sexual assault)
- Emotional abuse (e.g. Verbally intimidating and threatening patients)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g. Pushing a patient beyond their emotional/physical limits)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors
Medical errors could refer to many types of mistakes, including prescribing the wrong medication (or the wrong dosage) or performing unnecessary procedures.
Incorrect prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances
Although this offense may be included in the category of medical mistakes, it is serious enough that it warrants its own section. Examples of this offense include:
- Overprescribing medications (e.g. opioids)
- Keeping incorrect records or inventory tracking for medications
- Pilfering medication for personal use
- Dispensing medication in an otherwise reckless manner
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is against medical ethics for doctors to have romantic or sexual relationships with patients they are treating. This is against medical ethics. Unwelcome sexual advances (toward colleagues or patients), sexual harassment, and sexual assault are also examples of sexual misconduct. These actions almost always lead to the loss of a license.
Patient safety is paramount in the healthcare industry, and that safety depends on accuracy of patient records. If you are charged with falsifying patient records, keeping records in an incorrect or sloppy way, or violating patient confidentiality, your license could be at risk.
Not following the treatment recommendations
Your license could be in danger if you are accused of failing to follow the recommendations of another doctor. This could include failing to refer patients to specialists when medically necessary or failing to follow orders from a doctor who referred you to them.
Your healthcare license may be suspended or revoked if you misuse prescription drugs or take illegal drugs. Excessive drinking is also a problem. Substance abuse can affect your ability to safely care for patients. Therefore, licensing boards are not willing to tolerate it. Anyone who suspects you may be abusing substances must report it to their supervisor.
Some criminal offenses may disqualify you from holding a license in certain states. Your license could especially be at risk if you are convicted of DWI or crimes of moral turpitude. Furthermore, if you fail to report a conviction to the licensing board voluntarily, your license could be suspended.
Professional License Defense in Newark, New Jersey
Any allegation of misconduct against a Newark-based healthcare professional can trigger an investigation. Your license could be suspended or revoked if the state licensing board finds sufficient evidence--and in some cases, your license could face temporary suspension during the investigation itself. This could end your career. A professional license defense attorney can help you navigate the disciplinary process and possibly save your license. The Lento Law Firm can assist in license defense for any of the following professionals in Newark, NJ:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
If you are charged with any type of misconduct or violation, we can help protect your professional license as well as your livelihood. We are aware of the stakes and will defend your rights. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.