When a medical professional's license is at risk, the stakes are high. The outcome of an investigation or disciplinary action can have life-altering consequences for a career and reputation. As a licensed doctor, nurse, dentist, or other healthcare professional in Woodbridge Township, NJ, you've invested a great deal of time and money into building your career. But all it may take is a single complaint to your licensing board, one allegation of wrongdoing, to throw that career into jeopardy.
The ethical and professional standards set by the New Jersey state licensing boards are very strict. They view complaints as important and have the power to enforce disciplinary action against those who violate these standards--which can include taking away your license entirely. Simply put: no license, no career.
If your license is in danger, you need a reliable and knowledgeable Woodbridge Township, New Jersey professional license defense attorney who knows how to work within the system to safeguard your rights. With his years of experience in the field, attorney Joseph D. Lento knows how 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 New Jersey
If someone lodges a complaint against you, the state board that granted your professional license will investigate the claim and decide whether disciplinary action is appropriate. If you're a physician, for example, that board is 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. Although each licensing board has slightly different protocols, the process for complaints is usually quite similar. If you're facing possible disciplinary action, here's a general overview of what will happen.
The majority of licensure investigations start with complaints. Your state's licensing board can receive formal complaints from anyone, but the most typical sources of grievances against medical professionals are:
- Professional colleagues
- Insurance companies (in cases of suspected fraud)
- Healthcare facilities
If you were recently convicted of a crime, the courts would likely notify your state licensing board about this action. This may trigger an investigation by the board, which could lead to a temporary suspension of your license until the investigation is complete.
Request for Response
Once the licensing board receives a complaint against you, they will notify you and give you an opportunity to respond to the complaint in writing. This is your first (and sometimes best) chance to tell what happened in your own words. A compelling explanation, along with supporting evidence, may convince the board to dismiss the complaint with no further action. A good New Jersey license defense attorney can be quite helpful in drafting a convincing response.
In New Jersey, the board will typically appoint a Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC) to oversee the investigation, which in turn appoints an investigator to gather evidence for the next step of the process. During the investigation phase, the investigator may interview you and other witnesses, request documents, and do other research to find out what happened and see if there is evidence to substantiate the complaint. You may also be asked to appear and testify under oath.
The board might offer to negotiate a consent order with you, which would be an alternative to holding a formal hearing. A consent order is a binding agreement in which you admit your wrongdoings and agree to follow the disciplinary actions set by the board. Although not always ideal, if there is strong evidence against you, a consent order may be your best option, especially if it provides a pathway for you to get your license back. Always speak to a license defense attorney before agreeing to a consent order--they can always negotiate the best terms for you.
If the investigation finds enough evidence to back up the complaint, and if you don't agree to or sign a consent order, then the licensing board will officially file a state-level complaint against your license. You will then be summoned to a formal hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to show cause why the board should not revoke your license. If you choose to, you may have an attorney represent you at the hearing. Both sides will then present their evidence. At the hearing's conclusion, the judge will recommend to the board a disciplinary action against you that could be as mild as a reprimand or as severe as fully revoking your license.
Healthcare Institutions in Woodbridge Township, NJ
Situated at the crossroads of two of New Jersey's busiest highways, Woodbridge Township is considered a major suburb of New York City and is home to just over 100,000 people, with many more located in surrounding areas. As such, this area is home to numerous reputable hospitals and healthcare facilities, each of which holds its staff to high standards of excellence. Allegations against one's license could easily result in discipline or termination.
The main healthcare systems serving the Woodbridge Township area include, but are not limited to:
Hackensack Meridian Health
Hackensack Meridian Health is the largest healthcare network in New Jersey, operating 17 hospitals and 500 patient care centers across the state. Hackensack Meridien administers the expansive JFK University Medical Center located just west of Woodbridge Township, as well as Raritan Bay Medical Center to the south in Perth Amboy.
RWJBarnabas Health is one of New Jersey's renowned healthcare systems, with a reach that expands across the state to dozens of hospitals and care facilities. In the Woodbridge Township area, this health system operates the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Rahway, which also encompasses the adjacent acute care Kindred Hospital and the rehabilitative hospital Care Connection.
Why You Need a Woodbridge Township, NJ Professional License Defense Attorney
Because misconduct in healthcare and other professions has far-reaching implications for public safety, the state licensing boards in New Jersey holds their licensees to very high standards of professional and ethical conduct. They take every allegation of wrongdoing seriously, and they have a low burden of proof to decide whether disciplinary action is needed. This means you have no guaranteed presumption of innocence as you would in a court of law. In the eyes of the board, public safety comes first.
Licensing boards generally use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard to decide whether you are guilty. This means that if the board believes your alleged misconduct is more likely than not to have occurred, they can discipline you or revoke your license. That puts you in a very uncertain position when their decision has a direct impact on your career!
With the odds potentially against you like this, having an attorney with experience in professional license defense will give you a better chance at a favorable outcome. Before a situation leads to disciplinary action, an attorney's help is sometimes all that is needed to resolve the complaint. A board hearing will go much smoother with legal representation and may even prevent you from losing your license altogether.
An experienced Woodbridge Township professional license defense attorney can:
- Improve your chances of having a complaint dropped by drafting a compelling written response.
- Work with you to develop an effective strategy to combat the allegations.
- Gather evidence to support your case and procure witnesses to stand up for you.
- Act as your official legal representative in all interactions with the board.
- Negotiate with the licensing board directly for dismissal of the complaint, for leniency with penalties, or for the best possible terms in a consent order.
- If necessary, defend you at a formal hearing.
Types of Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your Professional License
Maintaining your professional license in New Jersey requires that you adhere to strict ethical and behavior standards. Thus, most complaints that could cause your license revocation have to do with state regulation violations, ethics, or breaks of public trust. Among the most common offenses that can lead to disciplinary action are:
Fraudulent practices can take many forms, some of which include:
- False advertising
- Misrepresenting your credentials
- Performing services that are not permitted by your license
- Fraudulent billing of patients or insurance
- Falsifying or altering patient diagnoses
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
Gross Neglect or Abuse
This refers to acts of neglect, abuse, or other behavior that could put a patient's health at risk. Examples include:
Medication errors, such as administering the wrong dosage of medicine, failing to provide necessary medications, or performing unnecessary procedures
Physical and emotional abuse of a patient
Failure to take appropriate action when a patient has an emergency situation
Violating patient confidentiality
Inappropriate Handling of Controlled Substances
This type of violation deserves some attention as an individual category, even though it could also fall under medical error. Examples include:
- Prescribing medications without a legitimate reason or diagnosis
- Overprescribing medications that carry a high risk of addiction, like opiates
- Inadequate inventory tracking and record keeping
- Pilfering medications for personal use or sale
- Dispensing medication without a valid prescription
It's a huge breach of ethics for medical professionals to engage in romantic or sexual relationships with patients they are treating, and it can easily cost you your license. Other types of sexual misconduct include sexual harassment, unwanted sexual advances, or other inappropriate sexual behavior toward patients or colleagues.
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals must keep accurate patient records that include the date of service, diagnosis, and treatment rendered. Poor record-keeping is taken seriously by licensing boards; not only does it reflect poorly on you as a professional, but it can make it difficult to defend yourself against allegations or substantiate your case if necessary. Some examples of improper medical documentation include changing or omitting patient records, poor storage conditions, and compromising a patient's personal information.
Failure to Follow Protocols for Patient Care
If you're accused of failing to follow a doctor's orders for the care of their patients, or if you fail to refer someone to a specialist when specialized care is indicated, these may be grounds for losing your license.
Medical professionals who abuse alcohol or drugs can pose a serious risk to their patients. If you are under the influence while on duty, you will likely suffer severe penalties, including loss of your license. Substance abuse off-duty is also scrutinized by most licensing boards as it could compromise your ability to care for patients safely.
If you are convicted of certain crimes--particularly crimes of moral turpitude or those directly related to your trade--you could stand to lose your professional license in New Jersey. You must also promptly notify your state licensing board of any criminal conviction; not doing so might bring about separate disciplinary action.
Professional License Defense at Woodbridge Township, New Jersey
If you are a licensed professional in Woodbridge Township, NJ, such as a doctor, dentist, anesthesiologist, or nurse, your career is largely dependent on your license. Failing to take a license investigation seriously could easily cost you your license. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience with professional licensing boards, and he can greatly improve your chances of saving your license and your career.
The Lento Law Firm can help with licensing defense issues for any of these professionals in Woodbridge Township, NJ:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
Don't delay in taking action if you receive notice of a complaint filed against your professional license. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.