On a professional level, it's one of the worst things you can imagine. After years of time and money invested into your career as a Scranton, PA, healthcare professional, you are notified by the state licensing board that your license is under investigation over allegations of misconduct. As a doctor, nurse, dentist, or another licensed medical professional, your career hinges on public trust. With that trust now in question, what will the future hold? Could this single allegation of wrongdoing derail your entire career and all you've worked for?
In short, yes, it could--especially if you try to face the allegations on your own. However, with a skilled Pennsylvania license defense attorney on your side, your chances of emerging unscathed go up dramatically. Having the right attorney not only could save your professional license, but by extension, your career.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Scranton, PA
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced license defense attorney who knows how to navigate the disciplinary process and protect your rights. The Lento Law Firm has successfully represented healthcare professionals from all walks of life who have found themselves in this situation, and we can help you, too. We understand that your career is important not only to you, but to your patients as well. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What's at Stake in a Professional License Investigation?
Your livelihood is on the line in a professional license investigation. A finding of guilt could result in the suspension or revocation of your license, which would make it impossible for you to work in your chosen profession. Even if you are ultimately cleared of the allegations, the investigation itself could damage your reputation and make it difficult to find work. Hiring an attorney early in the process can greatly reduce the risk of damage to your career.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Scranton, PA
In Pennsylvania, professional and ethical standards are rigorously upheld by state licensing boards. If you're accused of violating these standards, the board that gave you your license is in charge of determining what disciplinary action to take.
The disciplinary process for professionals, including healthcare occupations, is typically uniform throughout Pennsylvania. If you're accused of wrongdoing, you can expect the disciplinary process to move forward as follows.
Most disciplinary actions against professional license holders begin with a formal complaint made to the licensing board. The State of Pennsylvania permits the public to file complaints about licensed professionals through the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Most complaints against healthcare professionals are filed by:
- Other practitioners
- Insurers (in cases of suspected fraud).
- Healthcare facilities
A probe could also be initiated if the court notifies the licensing board of your conviction for a crime. This could also lead to your license being temporarily suspended while the investigation takes place.
When the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs receives a complaint, it assigns an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to the case. This investigator will interview witnesses and collect evidence. They may also subpoena records and ask for your response to the complaint in writing. They have even been known to make unannounced visits to the offices of the people they are investigating. We advise you to decline to answer an investigator's questions unless your attorney is present.
The board can dismiss the complaint if the investigator's findings do not support the complaint. If there is sufficient evidence, however, the case will move forward.
If there is sufficient evidence against you to warrant disciplinary action, your state licensing board may try to negotiate a consent agreement with you. Consent agreements involve an admission of wrongdoing by the licensee, along with voluntary consent to the board's disciplinary recommendations. While a consent agreement isn't always the best choice to resolve a complaint, it may be a good option if a) disciplinary action is inevitable due to the evidence; and b) if the agreement includes a path toward reinstatement of your license. A good attorney can advise you whether a consent agreement is in your best interests and help negotiate the best terms.
If the board does not dismiss the complaint after the investigation, and/or if a consent agreement is not reached, you will then be summoned to a formal hearing before the state examiner and asked to show cause why you should be allowed to keep your professional license. A lawyer may be present to help you defend your side during the hearing. At the conclusion of the hearing, the examiner will present recommendations to the licensing board regarding any disciplinary actions, up to and including revoking your license.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney to Help You
Healthcare professionals who are accused of misconduct frequently underestimate the gravity of the problem. They mistakenly believe they can stave off disciplinary action by simply explaining themselves to the board or the investigator. In reality, the licensing board's job is to protect the public, and they are more likely to err on the side of caution when it comes to letting you keep your license. As soon as a complaint is filed, the board actively begins looking for evidence to support the allegations. Using the "preponderance of the evidence standard," the board only needs to be convinced that you are more than 50% likely to have committed wrongdoing to impose discipline against your license. They do NOT necessarily presume you are innocent until proven guilty, and anything you say could be used against you. In other words--you're coming into the disciplinary process at an immediate disadvantage.
Having an experienced Scranton professional license defense attorney in your corner helps to level the playing field, so you have a better chance of being treated fairly. An experienced attorney understands the disciplinary process of state licensing boards and can work to get you the most favorable outcome possible.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento can help Scranton health professionals by doing the following:
- Examine the allegations against you to determine the strongest arguments for your case.
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story.
- Draft a persuasive written response to the complaint on your behalf, which will increase your chances of getting the complaint dismissed without further action.
- Assist as your official legal representative during the investigation and disciplinary processes.
- Negotiate with the board to either have the complaint dismiss dismissed or to impose lighter penalties.
- If necessary, defend yourself vigorously at a formal hearing.
Healthcare Services in Scranton, PA
Situated in northeast Pennsylvania, the City of Scranton, PA is home to about 76,000 people, but it anchors a surrounding metropolitan area (including Wilkes-Barre and other communities) of more than half a million people. Scranton is home to several hospitals and numerous outpatient facilities that serve the population. These health systems hold their physicians, nurses, and other staff to high standards of ethics, professionalism, and accountability, and allegations of wrongdoing could result in termination.
Main health systems serving the Scranton area include:
Arguably the largest healthcare system serving northeast PA, Commonwealth Health operates four hospitals regionally along with dozens of outpatient and specialized care facilities. In Scranton, Commonwealth Health administers the largest health complex in the city, which includes both the Regional Hospital of Scranton and the nearby Moses Taylor Hospital.
Integrating affordable insurance with compassionate patient care, Geisinger focuses on affordable healthcare for northeastern Pennsylvania, overseeing ten hospitals and numerous outpatient facilities throughout the region. Among these is Geisinger Community Medical Center in Scranton, which houses the county's only Level II trauma center.
Types of Allegations that Could Cost You Your License
Various types of accusations could lead to an investigation from a licensing board and subsequent disciplinary action. Most of these allegations involve violating state ethical and professional standards or other breaches of public trust. Among the most common accusations of wrongdoing are:
The term "fraud" can encompass many different actions, including, but not limited to:
- Charging patients or billing insurance for services not provided
- Overbilling patients or insurance
- Upcoding insurance claims to boost payouts
- Acting outside the scope of your license or misrepresenting your credentials
- False advertising
- Accepting kickbacks
- Modifying or falsifying patient records
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This category includes any type of neglect, abuse, or other behavior that could present a risk to the safety or well-being of a patient. Examples include:
- Abuse of any kind, physical or sexual
- Emotional abuse (e.g., intimidating or threatening patients verbally)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical mistakes may include prescribing the wrong medicine, the wrong dosage, or performing procedures that are either unsafe or unnecessary.
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
In the medical community, it is a grave breach of ethics for doctors, nurses, and other health professionals to have romantic or sexual relationships with patients they treat. Other examples of sexual misconduct include unwelcome sexual advances, sexual harassment, and sexual assault. These acts almost always lead to the loss of a license, and even being accused of such activities can put your license in danger.
Inappropriate handling of controlled substances
Pennsylvania holds medical professionals to strict regulations regarding dispensing drugs due to the high risks of abuse. Violations of these standards can result in loss of license. Here are some examples:
- Prescribing medicines without a valid reason
- Overprescribing certain kinds of medicines (like opioids)
- Discrepancies, errors, and sloppy record-keeping regarding medicines kept in inventory
- Pilfering medications for personal use or sale on the street
- Dispensing medicines without a prescription
For healthcare professionals, drug and alcohol abuse are considered breaches of public trust because these substances can impair their judgment and impact their ability to care for patients safely.
Healthcare professionals must maintain accurate records to ensure patients receive safe and effective care. Your license could be at stake if you are suspected of falsifying records, maintaining records in a haphazard manner, or allowing the privacy of patient records to be compromised.
Not following treatment guidelines
You could be disciplined if you don't follow orders from a patient's doctor regarding their care. Likewise, if a patient needs specialist care and you fail to refer them to a specialist, your license could be jeopardized.
You may lose your license to practice medicine, nursing, dentistry, etc. if you are convicted of a crime. This applies especially if the crime is related to your profession or is considered a crime of moral turpitude.
Professional License Defense in Scranton, Pennsylvania
If you are a medical professional in Scranton, Pennsylvania, and you are facing allegations of wrongdoing that could jeopardize your license, it is important to seek experienced legal help as soon as possible. The consequences of losing your license can be devastating, both professionally and personally. As a reminder, without effective legal help, even a single allegation of wrongdoing can escalate to the point where your license is revoked. On the other hand, having an experienced professional license defense lawyer can balance the scales and help turn the tables in your favor.
The Lento Law Firm offers professional license defense services to the following professionals who practice in Scranton, PA:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Additional licensed professionals
To ensure the best chance of success, it is important to hire an experienced attorney as soon as possible after being notified of a complaint. The longer you wait, the more time the licensing board has to prepare a compelling case against you. Attorney Joseph D. Lento will work with you to achieve a positive outcome. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.