As a healthcare or other professional duly licensed to practice in the State of Pennsylvania, you are also expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct both in your professional and personal life. But sometimes, even the most upstanding professionals can find themselves accused of misconduct, whether it's due to a simple mistake or a more serious issue.
As a working licensed professional (whether doctor, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, or another office), you have invested a great deal of time, energy, and money in building your career. You're committed to providing the best possible care for your patients, and you play a vital role in the community. Your reputation, your livelihood, and your very career all hinge on the good standing of your license. That's why allegations of misconduct can create such uncertainty and stress. A single complaint, if found to be valid based only on a preponderance of the evidence, could result in disciplinary action, including suspending or revoking your license.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Pennsylvania
If you find yourself in a situation where your license is under threat, it's important to know that you have options and there is help available--whether you practice in Greater Philadelphia, West Chester, Allentown, Pittsburgh, or other parts of the state. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a Pennsylvania professional license defense attorney who works to help medical professionals and other licensed professionals keep their licenses and careers intact. When going up against your state licensing board, he will work to make sure your rights are protected and give you the best chance of a more favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Licensed Professionals in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania's disciplinary process is fairly uniform for all licensed professionals in the state, including medical professionals. The professional licensing board that granted your license is also in charge of imposing penalties for breaches or misconduct. If you're a physician, for example, you'll answer to the State Board of Medicine; if you are a nurse, the Board of Nursing, and so on. The standard disciplinary process typically moves forward as follows.
In almost all cases, board disciplinary procedures begin when a formal complaint is filed against you with the licensing board. In Pennsylvania, the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs accepts initial complaints against licensed professionals from the general public. Anyone can bring a claim, but it is most often filed by one of the following:
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud).
- Healthcare facilities
In addition, if you're convicted of a crime in the state of Pennsylvania, your conviction may be automatically reported to your licensing board--and in many circumstances, this might result in an automatic suspension pending a probe.
After a complaint has been received and processed by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation will be assigned to the case. The BEI investigator will supervise the investigation and evidence gathering. This may include interviews with complainants and witnesses and requests for your response. They may request to interview you in person, or they may come unannounced to your office. We recommend that you decline to answer any questions from investigators unless you have an attorney present. Anything you say could be used to strengthen the licensing board's case against you.
The licensing board can dismiss your complaint if the investigator's findings do not adequately support the complaint. They may also decide to pursue further action if the evidence is strong.
At any time throughout the inquiry and before a formal hearing, your state licensing board has the option of negotiating a consent agreement with you to resolve the complaint instead of holding a hearing. A consent agreement is essentially an admission of guilt on your part, as well as an agreement to accept certain board-prescribed remedies. In some circumstances, a good consent agreement might offer you a path to return to full licensure restoration, and it may be an excellent alternative if the evidence against you is solid enough. However, it's best not to sign any consent agreement without consulting with a good license defense attorney to ensure the agreement works in your favor.
If your complaint is not dismissed during the investigation phase--or if no consent agreement is reached--you will be summoned to appear at a formal hearing to demonstrate cause for why your license should not be revoked. The hearing will be held before a state hearing examiner, and you may bring an attorney to defend your position. At the end of the hearing, the examiner will give recommendations to the licensing board for disciplinary action, which could range from a simple reprimand to full revocation of your license.
Why It's Important to Have a License Defense Attorney
When a licensed professional is accused of misconduct or an ethics violation, they frequently fail to comprehend the gravity of the situation, mistakenly believing that they can simply "explain it" to the licensing board to end any confusion. In reality, when a complaint is filed against you, the board is on high alert for evidence to support it. The burden of proof for accusations against you is also quite low because most licensing boards use the "preponderance of the evidence" standard. (This means they only need to conclude that it's more than 51 percent likely you committed the offense versus being convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.) In short, any allegation of misconduct can put you at a disadvantage in proving your innocence unless a professional license attorney is involved.
Not only can a skilled professional license defense lawyer work to protect your rights and prove your innocence, but they can also negotiate with the board to have your complaint dismissed or to agree to more lenient penalties, greatly increasing your chances of keeping your license.
Here are some ways a skilled Pennsylvania attorney can help you defend your professional license:
- Take on the role of your legal representative in all interactions with the board
- Gather evidence and witnesses to refute the claim against you
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint (which may convince the board to close the matter without further action)
- Negotiate with the board to dismiss the complaint or agree to lesser penalties
- Negotiate the most favorable terms for a consent agreement
- If necessary, defend you at the formal hearing
Areas in Pennsylvania We Serve
The Lento Law firm can provide professional license defense services to doctors, nurses, dentists, other healthcare professionals, and licensed workers in many other professions across the State of Pennsylvania. We can help in any area of the state, but most of our clients hail from the following areas:
Located across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, the populous Camden/Cherry Hill area comprises part of Philadelphia's eastern suburbs, with Camden County hosting a combined population of nearly a quarter-million people. This area includes numerous boroughs and municipalities, including Collingswood, Haddon Township, Audubon, Gloucester City, and others. Main healthcare systems in this area include Virtua, Cooper University Health Care, and CAMCare.
Located in eastern PA, Allentown is home to approximately 126,000 people. It serves as a major center for healthcare and medical research in the region. Located here are several key hospitals, including Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, St. Luke's Hospital–Allentown Campus, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Network Allentown Campus, and Sacred Heart Hospital.
Home to about 83,000 people, Trenton is the state capital of New Jersey and, therefore, also serves as the primary location for the state's licensing boards. Trenton sits opposite Bucks County, PA, along the eastern banks of the Delaware River. Main hospitals and health care hubs in this area include St. Francis Medical Center, Capital Health Regional, and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton.
Common Allegations that Can Cost You Your License in Pennsylvania
The state licensing boards in Pennsylvania maintain stringent professional and ethical standards for their licensed professionals. The majority of claims that might result in the loss of your license are founded on breaches of board rules, unethical behavior, or a breach of public trust, such as immorality, criminality, or unprofessional conduct. Below are some examples of offenses that can lead to your licensing board revoking your license.
Many different offenses may fall into the category of fraud. Examples include:
- "Upcoding" insurance claims to receive more money for specific services
- Overbilling insurance or patients
- Charging patients or insurance for services not rendered
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Posing as a licensed professional when you're not--or acting outside the scope of your license. (E.g., prescribing medicine when you're not a doctor.)
- Modifying or falsifying patient records
Any type of neglect or abuse that could jeopardize the safety and well-being of a patient could endanger your license. Examples include:
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse/harassment
- Emotional abuse (e.g., verbally intimidating and threatening patients)
- "Unintentional abuse" (e.g., pushing a patient past their emotional/physical limit)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors including prescribing the wrong medicine, the wrong dose, or performing unneeded procedures.
Incorrect prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances
Healthcare professionals who prescribe or dispense controlled substances are subject to strict regulation due to the possibility of abuse. Violating the rules can cost you your license. Examples include:
- Prescription of medications without a valid medical purpose
- Overprescribing medication (e.g., opioids)
- Sloppy inventory tracking of medications
- Pilfering medication for personal use or resale
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is highly unethical for some professionals (especially doctors and other health professionals) to have romantic or sexual relationships with their patients. Sexual misconduct includes unwelcome sexual advances (toward patients or colleagues), sexual harassment, sexual assault, etc. These acts almost always result in the loss of a license.
The healthcare industry is committed to patient safety, and accurate records are a key part of that. Your license could be at stake if you are charged with falsifying records or keeping records in an erratic manner.
Failing to follow treatment recommendations or protocols
If, for example, you are a healthcare worker who fails to follow a doctor's instructions regarding a patient, your license could be at risk. Likewise, if you have a patient requiring specialist care and you fail to refer them, you could be subject to disciplinary action.
Medical professionals who abuse drugs and/or alcohol are considered a public risk because these substances can impair one's judgment to treat patients safely. If you abuse prescription drugs, misuse illegal drugs, or drink excessively, your healthcare license could be suspended or revoked. Any colleague or coworker who suspects you of substance abuse also has an ethical responsibility to report it.
A criminal conviction is grounds for license suspension or revocation in many licensed professions, particularly if it is related to one's profession or is considered a crime of moral turpitude. The courts may also report convictions to your licensing board automatically, in which case your license could be immediately suspended until an investigation is completed.
Professional License Defense in Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania
Any allegation of misconduct could have grave consequences for a licensed professional in Pennsylvania. If the state licensing board has sufficient evidence to prove your guilt, your license may be suspended or revoked with a minimal burden of proof. Having an experienced Pennsylvania license defense attorney to assist you in navigating the complicated disciplinary process could very well save your career.
The Lento Law Firm can assist with license defense for many licensed professions in Pennsylvania--including, but not limited to:
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Social workers
- Insurance agents
- Building inspectors
- ...and many others
If you're a licensed professional accused of misconduct, do not wait to be summoned for a formal hearing to hire an experienced lawyer. You have a better chance of protecting yourself and your livelihood by involving Joseph D. Lento as early as possible. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.