If you are a licensed physician, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, or another medical professional serving Trenton, New Jersey, you have built a rewarding career that depends on the public trust—and you've invested a lot of time and money earning that trust. As a result, your practice and your very livelihood depend on your professional license. When allegations of misconduct jeopardize that license, it can throw your entire career into uncertainty.
Unfortunately, all it may take to threaten your license is a single misunderstanding, false accusation, or lapse in judgment—and all you've worked for could be taken away. If this happens to you, the last thing you need is to be caught flat-footed. You need to be proactive and take tangible steps to rescue your reputation and your career.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Trenton, NJ
Taking action as soon as possible following a complaint is your best chance of preserving your license, regardless of whether you're accused of insurance fraud, substance abuse, gross carelessness, abuse, etc. The first step is to consult a knowledgeable professional license defense attorney who can represent your interests, safeguard your rights, and guide you through the complicated disciplinary procedure. Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey professional license defense attorney with plenty of experience dealing with allegations and disciplinary issues that medical professionals often face. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Trenton, NJ
In New Jersey, the state licensing board that issued your healthcare professional license will also investigate complaints against you and determine whether disciplinary action is warranted. If you're a doctor, you'll answer to the Board of Medical Examiners; if a nurse, the Board of Nursing (BON); if a dentist, the State Board of Dentistry, and so on. While each board's processes and rules may differ slightly, most professional licensees face the same basic disciplinary process when it comes to complaints against their license. Here's an overview of what to expect.
In almost all cases, board disciplinary processes are triggered by some sort of formal complaint made against you. This complaint can come from a variety of sources, including:
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud).
- Healthcare facilities
Additionally, an investigation may be triggered if the courts notify the licensing board of a recent criminal conviction on your record.
Request for response
The board's first response to a complaint is to notify you by mail about the complaint and request a written response. This is your opportunity to explain things from your perspective and give background. If you can provide a compelling explanation and evidence to support it, the board may not take any further action. A good license defense attorney can assist you in writing a convincing response.
A full investigation may be initiated if your written response to the complaint is not sufficient to diffuse it (or you fail to reply). The board may appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee to supervise the process, along with an investigator to oversee the details of the investigation. The investigation itself could include interviews with you and any other people involved (including the person who filed the complaint against you), subpoenas for medical records and documentation, and other fact-finding activities. You may be asked to testify under oath before the PEC during the investigative phase.
If the board uncovers sufficient evidence to validate the complaint against you, they might try to negotiate a consent order in lieu of a formal hearing. A consent order is a legally binding agreement between the state and you in which you acknowledge wrongdoing and agree that you will comply with any sanctions agreed to by the board. These may include mandatory classes, suspension of your license, and treatment for substance abuse (if applicable). A consent order can often provide a pathway to reinstatement, and while it's not always the most favorable option, a good attorney can negotiate terms in such a way that offers the opportunity to get your career back on track.
If the matter is not resolved in negotiations or with a consent order, the board will file a formal complaint against you with the state. You will then be summoned to appear before an Administrative Law Judge in a formal hearing. You'll have the opportunity to present your evidence and testimony. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing. The board does not have to prove your guilt definitively (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt), but instead, 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. The judge will then recommend disciplinary actions based on the hearing, including whether or not to revoke your professional license.
Why You Need an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney
When healthcare professionals are accused of misconduct, they often fail to appreciate the gravity of the problem. They wrongfully think they may simply "explain themselves" to the board to resolve the matter. However, it's not wise to underestimate the board. They are not necessarily on your side—they have a duty to protect the public, and they have sweeping authority and a low burden of proof. Without the help of a skilled attorney, it's much more likely that the board will err on the side of caution and revoke your license. And anything you say or do could be turned against you when your license is under scrutiny.
At the same time, if the board can be convinced that the complaint against you is invalid or that you don't pose a threat to public trust--and if you are cooperative with the investigation--they have the ability to dismiss the complaint against you. This is where a skilled professional license defense attorney can be incredibly useful. Involving an attorney early on in the process greatly boosts your chances of having the board either dismiss the complaint or agree to a lesser penalty that permits you to keep your license.
Here's how a skilled Trenton professional license defense attorney can help you:
- Act as your legal representative in all interactions with the board.
- Examine the complaint against you and gather evidence to support your position.
- Draft a powerful initial written response to the complaint to give you the best chance of having the complaint dismissed.
- Negotiate with the board at multiple points for a dismissal of the complaint or reduced penalties.
- Negotiate the most advantageous terms for a consent order as an alternative to a formal hearing.
- Defend you in the formal hearing, if necessary.
Healthcare Institutions in Trenton, NJ
Home to approximately 91,000 people, Trenton, NJ, is the state capital of New Jersey and one of the largest populated areas in western NJ. Two main hospitals serve its population, along with numerous clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, and dental offices. These facilities are highly discerning about the professional and ethical conduct of their personnel, and they take the validity of your professional license seriously. Allegations of misconduct might result in a suspension or termination from employment, particularly if your professional license is jeopardized.
The main healthcare facilities and organizations in Trenton, New Jersey, include:
Capital Health Regional Medical Center
Part of the larger regional Capital Health system, Capital Health Regional houses only one of ten trauma centers in the State of New Jersey, also offering a wide range of specialty inpatient and outpatient services. Capital Health also administers multiple primary care and specialty care locations in Trenton and the vicinity.
St. Francis Medical Center
Trenton's first and oldest hospital (established in 1874), St. Francis Medical Center today is part of the vast Trinity Health network, one of the largest Catholic health systems in the nation. While offering a full array of inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services, St. Francis is also the premier cardiac health facility in the region.
Common Offenses or Allegations that Could Put Your Professional License at Risk
New Jersey's healthcare professionals are held to high ethical and professional standards by their respective state licensing boards. Most allegations that could lead to you losing your license will be based on either a violation of state regulations, a violation of ethics, or a violation of public trust. Here are some of the most common offenses that could lead to disciplinary action by a licensing board.
Fraud encompasses many different offenses. Some examples include
- Overbilling patients or insurance
- Using "upcoding" strategies with your insurance to get more money
- Falsifying patient diagnosis for insurance purposes
- Billing the patient or your insurance for services not rendered
- Operating outside the scope of your license
- Accepting kickbacks in exchange for referrals
- Modifying or altering a patient's medical records (e.g., to hide an error or for insurance purposes)
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This umbrella category includes any type of neglect or abuse that could jeopardize the safety, well-being, or health 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 past their emotional/physical limits)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors
Medical errors can refer to many different types of errors, from prescribing the wrong medicine (or the wrong dose) to performing unnecessary surgical procedures.
Improper prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances
This offense sometimes falls under the category of medical errors, but it is serious enough to warrant its own section. The improper prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances includes:
- Overprescribing medication (e.g., opioids)
- Keeping inaccurate records or inventory tracking of medications
- Pilfering medications for personal use
- Otherwise dispensing medication in an irresponsible manner
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
Medical professionals should not have a romantic or sexual relationship with patients they treat. This is a violation of medical ethics. Sexual misconduct includes unwelcome sexual advances (toward patients or colleagues), sexual harassment, and sexual assault. These acts almost always result in the loss of a license. Falsely accusing someone of sexual misconduct could put your career in danger.
In the healthcare industry, accurate record-keeping is paramount to patient safety. Your license could be at stake if you are accused of falsifying or keeping patient records in an incomplete or sloppy manner.
Not following treatment recommendations
If you are accused of not following the treatment recommendations of another medical professional, your license could be at stake. For example, if you fail to refer a patient to a specialist when it is medically necessary, or if you fail to follow the orders of a doctor who referred a patient to you, this could be considered negligence.
If you abuse prescription drugs or use illegal drugs, your healthcare license could be suspended or revoked. The same is true for excessive drinking. Substance abuse can impact your ability to safely treat patients, so licensing boards have little tolerance for it. Any colleague who suspects that you are abusing substances has an ethical responsibility to report it.
Certain criminal offenses can be considered violations of state laws. This could put your license at risk, particularly if you are convicted of DWI or crimes against Moral Turpitude. Any convictions must be reported to the licensing board. Failure to notify your licensing board could result in your license being suspended.
Professional License Defense in Trenton, New Jersey
If you're a licensed healthcare professional in Trenton, NJ, any allegation of misconduct, no matter how minor, should be taken seriously. If your state licensing board finds evidence to support the allegation, it could result in having your license suspended or revoked, effectively ending your career. Hiring a professional license defense attorney to help you through the process may very well save your license. The Lento Law Firm can help any of the following medical professionals in Trenton:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed healthcare professionals
We can help you defend your professional license and protect your livelihood if you are accused of misconduct. We understand what is at stake and will protect your rights. The sooner you notify our office of a complaint against you, the better your chances for a favorable outcome. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.