Physical and Occupational Therapists play a vital role in the medical profession, working with patients to help them improve or restore their mobility and strength or to improve their ability to perform every day or workplace tasks. As our population ages, demand for these types of therapists is increasing rapidly, much more rapidly than the average for other types of jobs.
Each state regulates physical and occupational therapists, with different education, testing, continuing education, and practice requirements depending on the state. These requirements are designed to ensure that therapists meet certain standards before they are authorized to practice in a given state. Essentially, the requirements are there to protect the public.
All states require therapists to have graduated from approved physical or occupational therapy programs and to have passed a national examination. Some states add additional requirements, such as passing a criminal background check or passing a second exam that focuses on the state's laws that apply to the particular profession.
As part of the licensing and regulatory process, each state has its own complaint and disciplinary process in place for physical and occupational therapists. If you are a licensed physical or occupational therapist, you understand how hard you've worked to reach that point. Years of education, many hours of test preparation, and constant practice have brought you to where you are today. If you've been notified that a formal complaint has been filed against you with your state regulatory agency, all of your hard work is at risk. You need to take the situation seriously.
Fortunately, you don't have to face the complaint process alone. Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have years of experience helping registered physical and occupational therapists nationwide defend their licenses in complaint investigations and hearings.
Issues That May Result in a Complaint
The specific types of complaint issues that licensing boards typically investigate vary from state to state but in general, can relate to the following types of behavior:
- Sexual misconduct, either forcible non-consensual sexual contact or situations where the sexual contact is the result of the therapist taking improper advantage of their relationship with the patient;
- Medication or substance abuse, either mishandling prescribed drugs or abusing drugs or alcohol;
- Physically or emotionally abusing patients;
- Mishandling patient records, including false billing practices;
- In some states, failing to disclose past convictions when applying for a license, or current convictions when the license is active.
The Complaint Process
Here too, procedures may vary from one state to another. Generally speaking, however, the process will involve some or all of the following:
- Evaluation of the complaint to confirm that it is the type of matter that the disciplinary body regulates;
- Investigation of the allegations in the complaint;
- Notification of whether the matter is considered closed or whether charges are being brought based on the complaint and the investigation;
- Potential settlement negotiations to resolve the matter without a hearing;
- A formal hearing where negotiations do not resolve the matter;
- A decision following the hearing;
- Where the charges are upheld, an imposition of sanctions.
There is also the potential in these situations for an appeal if the disciplinary decision is not in favor of the therapist, but typically appellate courts will only review claims that the disciplinary board acted unfairly or contrary to the law. The appellate court will not retry the disciplinary hearing.
In addition to state licensing board disciplinary hearings, the organizations that certify therapists may have their own disciplinary processes that can affect the certification awarded by those organizations.
State licensing boards typically reserve the right to impose a range of penalties where a licensed professional is found to have violated disciplinary requirements. These can include:
- A formal reprimand or censure;
- A monetary fine;
- Imposition of a probation period, with monitoring and follow-up requirements;
- Suspension of the license;
- In cases of substance abuse, an agreement to limit discipline provided the individual receives treatment.
Most of these outcomes will appear on your public license record, with the possible exception of referral to substance abuse treatment.
What to Do if a Complaint Has Been Filed Against You
If you're notified that someone has filed a formal complaint against you, understand that it is a serious matter that may result in you being unable to practice your profession. You definitely need to take it seriously, even if you disagree strongly with the allegations in the complaint.
The most effective way to handle this type of complaint is to get the help of an experienced professional license defense attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team have been advising healthcare professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, on license disciplinary matters for years. They understand how the process works and can help you gather information about the situation and prepare your defense. In particular, they can help in the following ways:
- Review the complaint and explain it in the context of the laws, regulations, rules, and standards that apply;
- Represent you in communications, negotiations, and hearings before the disciplinary body;
- Help you gather, organize, and present information in your defense;
- Negotiate on your behalf for the dismissal of any charges brought or for a result that allows you to keep your license.
If you are concerned that appearing before a disciplinary board with an attorney at your side may be viewed unfavorably by the board, don't be; it's extremely common and, in fact, shows the board that you are taking the situation seriously and intend to deal with it in a professional manner.
Contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team for Help
If you are a therapist and have been notified that a formal complaint has been filed against you, contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today to discuss your situation. They have years of experience representing healthcare professionals, including physical and occupational therapists, in disciplinary proceedings nationwide and understand the rules, the process, and, most importantly, how important this is to you and your livelihood.
You have worked hard to earn a license to practice your profession. Contact Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team today at 888.535.3686 or through the online contact form to set up a confidential consultation about your case. They are there to listen and help.