As hard as you've worked into becoming a licensed physician, nurse, dentist, or other healthcare professional in Toms River, NJ—as much time and effort as you've invested into your career so far—all it may take is a single complaint or allegation of wrongdoing to derail all you've worked for. The New Jersey state licensing boards have very strict standards regarding professional and ethical conduct. They take complaints seriously and have broad authority to enforce discipline against anyone whom they believe has violated these standards. Your career hinges on your license, so if they take the license away...there goes your career.
Whether the complaint against you is true or false, whether it's due to a misunderstanding or a lapse in judgment, you will need experienced legal representation to protect your license and, ultimately, your career. If your professional license is at risk, you need a reputable and experienced Toms River, New Jersey professional license defense attorney who knows how to navigate the system to protect your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the experience and knowledge to help you obtain the best possible outcome in a disciplinary license investigation. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Healthcare Professionals in Toms River
The New Jersey licensing board that issued your professional license will also investigate any complaints made against you and decide if punishment is necessary. If you're a physician, for example, you'll answer to the New Jersey Board of Medical Examiners; for nurses, it's the State Board of Nursing; for dentists, the State Board of Dentistry, and so on. While each board has its own specific protocols established, the disciplinary process usually follows a predictable path as follows.
In most cases, the disciplinary process starts with a complaint filed against you. Anyone can file a complaint with your licensing board, but for medical professionals, complainants are usually patients, coworkers, healthcare facilities, insurance companies, etc. A disciplinary process can also be triggered by a recent criminal conviction if the court notifies your licensing board about it. In some cases, a criminal conviction may prompt the board to issue a temporary suspension of your license while they investigate.
Request for Response
The licensing board will send you a notification as soon as they receive any complaints against you. At that point, you'll have the opportunity to respond to the complaint in writing. This is usually your best chance to explain what happened from your perspective. If your response is accompanied by a convincing explanation and evidence, the board may be convinced to take no further action. A good New Jersey license defense attorney can help you draft an effective response.
During the investigation phase, the board will typically appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to handle the investigation. The PEC will assign an investigator to your case to look for evidence to corroborate the complaint. The investigator may interview the complainant and other witnesses, request documents and do additional research. You may also be asked to appear and testify under oath.
If the investigation uncovers sufficient evidence to support the complaint, the board might offer to negotiate a consent order with you in lieu of a formal hearing. A consent order is an agreement in which you voluntarily submit to whatever disciplinary actions the board has recommended. If the evidence is stacked against you, a consent order may be your best option--especially if it provides a way for you to have your license reinstated. That said, a consent order isn't always the best resolution, so we always recommend having an experienced attorney review the consent order before you sign it.
If you don't accept a consent order, or if one is not offered, you will be summoned to a formal hearing, to which you may bring an attorney. The hearing is conducted before an Administrative Law Judge who will review the evidence and hear testimony from both sides. At that point, you'll have another chance to present your story and any evidence in your favor. At the hearing's conclusion, the judge will make a recommendation to the board as to what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken against you. Disciplinary actions can range from a formal reprimand to full revocation of your license.
Healthcare Institutions in Toms River, NJ
Situated near the Atlantic coast along the central Jersey Shore, the Township of Toms River is the county seat of Ocean County. Home to just under 100,000 people, Toms River is also one of the most populous communities in the region. Numerous healthcare facilities serve this community, and the licensed medical staff of these facilities are held to high standards of excellence, not just in patient care but in professionalism. An allegation of wrongdoing could put not only your license at risk but also your employment at one of these trusted facilities.
The main healthcare systems serving the Toms River area include, but are not limited to:
As one of New Jersey's largest healthcare providers, RWJBarnabas Health oversees dozens of hospitals, specialty services, and primary care facilities across the state. In the Toms River area, RWJBarnabas Health operates the Community Medical Center along Hwy 37, as well as Barnabas Heart Health and other clinics and facilities in the area.
Hackensack Meridian Health
Administering 17 hospitals and hundreds of other patient care facilities in New Jersey, Hackensack Meridian Health is the state's largest healthcare network--and also one of the most trusted. Hackensack Meridian operates Ocean University Medical Center, located just north of Toms River in nearby Brick Township.
Why You Need a Toms River, NJ Professional License Defense Attorney
New Jersey's state licensing boards maintain high professional and ethical standards for their licensees to protect the public. They take allegations of wrongdoing seriously, and they only need a low burden of proof to decide whether disciplinary action is needed. In fact, most licensing boards use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, which means they can administer discipline if they believe it's more likely than not that you committed wrongdoing! In other words...you have no guaranteed presumption of innocence, and this puts you at a disadvantage. The board would rather err on the side of caution in order to make sure the public trust is protected.
That's why it is so critical to have an experienced professional license defense attorney on your side--preferably one with specific experience in front of New Jersey's licensing boards. Having an attorney levels the playing field and gives you much better odds of achieving a favorable resolution. A good attorney can also advise you of your rights and negotiate for lesser discipline or even a dismissal, if possible.
An experienced Toms River professional license defense attorney can:
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint, improving your chances of having the complaint dismissed.
- Review the complaint against you and work to develop a winning defense strategy.
- Act as your legal representative in all correspondence with the board.
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side of the story.
- Negotiate with the board at multiple points to have the complaint dismissed or for lesser penalties that allow you to keep your license.
- Negotiate for favorable terms in a consent order.
- If necessary, defend you at a formal hearing.
What Types of Allegations Could Put Your Professional License at Risk?
Adhering to ethical and professional standards is crucial to maintaining your license in New Jersey. Most complaints that could cause your license revocation are due to violations of state regulations, ethics, or betrayals of public trust. These include, but are not limited to:
Fraudulent practices can take many forms, some of which include false advertising, billing for services that weren't provided, "upcoding" on insurance claims for more money, falsifying or altering patient diagnoses, or taking kickbacks from vendors in exchange for referrals.
Gross Neglect or Abuse
Gross neglect or abuse of a patient is also grounds for disciplinary action. This includes failing to provide proper care, misdiagnosis of conditions, medication errors, violating patient confidentiality, or inflicting physical or emotional abuse on a patient.
Drug or Alcohol Abuse
Drug and alcohol abuse while working in the medical field has no place in New Jersey. If you drink to excess or abuse illicit drugs or medications, it can impact your judgment when administering patient care. Your license can be revoked if you are found to be using drugs or alcohol while working in the medical field.
Inappropriate Handling of Controlled Substances
Prescription medications are closely regulated in New Jersey, and you can lose your license for failing to handle them according to proper protocols. Examples include:
- Writing prescriptions for drugs when there is no legitimate medical reason or diagnosis
- Overprescribing medications, like opiates that carry a high risk of addiction
- Keeping inaccurate inventories of medications
- Pilfering medications for personal use or sale
- Giving out medication without a valid prescription
If you are a medical professional and you engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with one of your patients, not only is it considered highly unethical, but it could also cause you to lose your license. Other examples of sexual misconduct include making unwanted sexual advances or sexually harassing colleagues or patients, or other inappropriate sexual behavior.
Maintaining accurate patient records is a crucial part of medical practice. Poor record-keeping can include inaccuracies, inconsistencies, or gaps in patient records that could lead to misdiagnosis or mistreatment. Other examples include altering patient records or failing to safeguard patients' personal information.
Failure to Follow Protocols for Patient Care
If you are accused of not following a doctor's orders for patient care or if you don't refer someone to a specialist when specialized care is needed, your license could be at risk.
In New Jersey, certain criminal convictions could lead to the loss of your professional license--especially those considered crimes of moral turpitude or crimes directly related to your profession. You must also notify your state licensing board if you are convicted of a crime because not doing so may also result in disciplinary action.
Professional License Defense in Toms River, New Jersey
If you're a licensed healthcare professional or other professional licensee in Toms River, NJ, the worst thing you can do if you're notified of a complaint is to ignore it. Your state licensing board takes the matter seriously, and so should you. It is in your best interests to contact a professional license defense attorney as soon as possible. Being proactive about defending your license could very well save your career.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience defending medical professionals and other licensed professionals in New Jersey, including those practicing in Toms River. He can help you understand the charges and work with you to develop a strategy for answering the complaint.
The Lento Law Firm can help with licensing defense issues for any of these professionals in Toms River, NJ:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
Your chances of overcoming a complaint against your license go up considerably with the right attorney in your corner. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.