As a physician, nothing is more valuable to you than your medical license. It's the seal of approval from the state of Wisconsin that lets your patients and your community know that you're qualified to practice medicine, that you have the education and training you need, and that you can be trusted to look after public health. Of course, in a more concrete and practical sense, it's the permission you need to work as a doctor. Practicing medicine without a license is illegal in the state of Wisconsin.
You can't afford to take any threat to your license lightly. Questions about your medical school's accreditation or about whether you've fulfilled the necessary continuing education hours can put your license at risk, to say nothing of accusations of professional misconduct.
What does it mean to take the situation seriously?
Under normal circumstances, you might turn to the Wisconsin Medical Board when you have a problem. One of the board's primary functions is to serve as an advocate for medical professionals in the state. You can't do that, though, if your credentials are being questioned. In that situation, the board becomes your chief adversary.
You don't want to try and handle a license defense by yourself, either, though. The rules that govern your behavior as a medical professional aren't just friendly guidelines you've agreed to follow. They're part of state law, and the judicial procedures involved in protecting your license are complex and difficult to navigate.
You need a professional on your side. You need someone from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm have represented hundreds of healthcare professionals in all types of license defenses. They know Wisconsin state law. They're familiar with how the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board operates. Most importantly, though, they know your rights. They can make sure you're treated fairly at every step of the defense process, and they can help you use your rights to your very best advantage.
The Physician Licensing Process in Wisconsin
It turns out your license doesn't have to be in jeopardy to need help from the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. Getting your license in the first place is a difficult process, and it's always useful to have help from someone familiar with that process.
As part of the application, for instance, you must provide several important documents.
- The application itself
- Evidence of your graduation from an “approved” medical school, including verification of your internship and 12 months of supervised clinical training
- Documentation that you've completed a 24-month accredited post-graduate training program
- A personal photograph, 8 x 12, taken no more than 60 days before you submit the application and bearing a statement from a public notary that it represents your true likeness
- A verified statement that you are familiar with all state health laws and regulations
- The required application fee
In addition, the board can require you to undergo an oral examination if you meet one of several criteria, such as having a medical condition that might impair your ability to practice medicine or having been convicted of a crime.
You're expected to provide the board with honest answers to all questions, whether those answers appear on your application or are given in person. For example, you'll almost certainly be asked whether you were ever disciplined by your medical school. Mistaken omissions, confusions, and misunderstandings can be grounds to deny you a license. At the same time, even small blemishes can count against you.
Given the stakes and considering just how stressful it can be applying for a license, it's useful to have an attorney at your side as you go through the process. Attorneys at the Lento Law Firm can double-check your materials to make sure you've crossed every t and dotted every i. They can work with you to overcome any roadblocks that might be put in your path. They can offer you reassurance that you've done everything asked of you and everything required to earn your license.
Maintaining Your Medical License
Your responsibilities to the Wisconsin Medical Board don't end once you've obtained your license. You must also register your license every two years. Failure to do so means you're prohibited from practicing medicine. And, just like your initial license application, biennial registration can be a complex process.
Every time you're eligible for registration, the board is entitled to review your record—not just your record from the previous two years but your entire record as a medical professional. You may be asked questions about your personal life or asked to undergo a criminal background check. Even a relatively minor charge—such as a DUI—can raise questions about your fitness to practice medicine.
In addition, Wisconsin state law requires you to earn 30 Continuing Education hours every two years as part of the registration process. At least two of these hours must involve coursework in understanding state health care law. Another two hours must have to do with opioid prescription. In addition, all CE hours must be from programs accredited by the American Medical Association.
Registration is yet another area in which an attorney from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can offer help. Obviously, they can work with you to fill out forms and ensure all your documentation is in order. In addition, they stay up to date on all changes to state law and can make sure you haven't overlooked any new regulations when completing your registration.
If you're going through the registration process and aren't certain about what's required, or if you're worried that something on your record might raise issues for the board, it's important you contact the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team sooner rather than later. Registration dates in Wisconsin are firm, and if you wait too late, you may be forced to suspend your practice while you get your documents in order.
Just What Can Put Your Physician License at Risk?
The process of obtaining and maintaining your license can feel daunting. Defending yourself from a misconduct complaint can be downright scary. Anyone can lodge a complaint against you at any time. Just because you're following state law, obeying all rules, and attending to all of your ethical obligations doesn't mean you are immune from such complaints. Misunderstandings happen. Disgruntled patients make false allegations. And, once someone has filed a complaint, you can't be sure just how the case might end. Sometimes perfectly innocent evidence, if viewed from the wrong perspective, can make you seem guilty. If the board should decide you are responsible for violating state regulations, you are subject to a variety of sanctions, anything from a formal reprimand to the complete loss of your medical license.
Luckily, the board can't sanction you simply because a patient doesn't like your bedside manner or wants to dispute your charge for services. Before instigating any action against you, the board must determine that a complaint is both credible and actionable. “Actionable” under Wisconsin law means there's evidence that you've committed some form of “Unprofessional Conduct” as defined by law.
- Fraud: Whether you've exaggerated your credentials or offered false testimony in a trial, any type of deception or misrepresentation is grounds for disciplinary action.
- Drug Misuse or Mishandling: You can be sanctioned for things like over-prescribing medication or self-prescribing. It is not uncommon for physicians to face charges simply because they failed to file the proper paperwork regarding a prescription.
- Patient Abuse or Neglect: Any sort of patient abuse, whether physical or emotional, is grounds for license suspension or revocation. Of course, the definition of “abuse” can be highly subjective, and as a result, cases are rarely cut-and-dried.
- Violations of Doctor-patient Confidentiality: You have an obligation to maintain doctor-patient confidentiality as well. That obligation applies to records as well as direct communication. An electronic breach, for example, can expose you to an allegation of misconduct.
- Sexual Misconduct: Sexual discrimination and harassment in any form can subject you to an investigation. The most serious forms of misconduct, such as “engaging in sexually explicit behavior” with a patient or a patient's family member, almost always lead to license revocation.
- Criminal Convictions: Finally, state law requires you to follow all local, state, and federal laws, whether or not those laws relate directly to the practice of medicine. A conviction for domestic abuse or check-kiting can be enough to lose your license. In addition, you are required to report any legal action taken against you within 30 days and to report any conviction within 48 hours.
As a physician, you take your responsibility to abide by the ethics of your profession. As a professional, you rely on the public's trust, and that comes with certain expectations about your character and behavior. The fact of the matter is, though, that you can wind up in trouble through no fault of your own. Mistakes happen. False allegations happen. And, even if you are guilty of a violation, it doesn't mean that you deserve to have your license suspended or revoked. In today's social and political climate, medical boards, anxious to avoid negative publicity, sometimes go too far in assigning sanctions. No matter what your situation, you should never simply accept an allegation or a sanction. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is here to help you fight and to make sure you're treated fairly.
The Disciplinary Process in Wisconsin
You hope and pray that you never have to face an allegation of professional misconduct, but it can and does happen. Anyone can face a charge, regardless of ability, credentials, or experience. However, you have the right to defend yourself. Wisconsin state law outlines a clear set of procedures the Medical Board must follow any time you're charged with violating state regulations. As part of the process, you're entitled to full representation by an attorney. That means someone from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can be at your side and speak on your behalf from start to finish.
Just what does the process look like? In general, it has four parts, and a Lento Law Firm attorney can help with all four.
- Cases begin with an official complaint.
- The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board conducts an investigation.
- The Board then holds a formal hearing into the matter.
- Ultimately, the board determines whether or not you are guilty of an offense and issues sanctions as necessary.
Virtually anyone can make an informal complaint against you. However, complaints most often arise from
- Other clinic or hospital staff
In addition, the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board can lodge its own complaint. The board has the authority to conduct regular reviews of your practice. Likewise, it can initiate proceedings against you any time a court clerk notifies it you've been convicted of a crime.
However, an informal complaint is not enough. You must be formally charged in order to face a full investigation, and you cannot be charged until the board has conducted a preliminary investigation and determined that the complaint against you is credible and actionable. Further, if it does issue a formal charge, the board must supply you with a Notification of the Charges.
As part of the investigation, you're asked to submit an Answer to the complaint. Basically, this is equivalent to a plea in a criminal case. That is, in a short summary, you either affirm or deny your responsibility for the violation.
The board then works to collect any physical evidence and to interview any relevant witnesses. These might include the Complainant, any supervisors who might have knowledge of the incident, colleagues, and other institutional staff. As part of the process, the board has the power to subpoena testimony.
It's important to remember that while you may know you are innocent, investigators don't. Often, physicians assume that because they've committed no violation, they will be exonerated by an investigation. In fact, investigators are tasked with uncovering evidence, and they typically give that evidence a negative spin, even if it may be entirely innocuous. They will dig into your personal life and your entire history as a physician, and any blemish could be used against you. Plenty of innocent doctors lose their licenses every year.
Attorneys aren't just for representing you at hearings, though. An attorney from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can work with you from the very moment you are charged to help you answer questions, to make sure investigators consider all evidence and treat it objectively, and to ensure the Medical Examining Board affords you all of your legal rights.
The board itself does not hear cases in Wisconsin. Rather, they appoint an Administrative Judge to preside over proceedings and determine whether or not you are Responsible for a violation.
Many aspects of a Medical Board hearing are similar to a criminal court case. For example, you have the right to introduce evidence; you can call witnesses to testify; you can cross-examine any witnesses against you; and, importantly, an attorney from the Lento Law Firm can represent you.
A Wisconsin Medical Board hearing is not a criminal trial, though. For example, cases aren't heard in a courtroom but rather in Department of Safety and Professional Services offices. And, the judge in the case may not be required to find you guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Instead, they may use a less legal standard, such as “clear and convincing proof” or “preponderance of the evidence.”
Should the judge decide you are guilty of a violation, they can assign one or more sanctions, including,
- A formal reprimand
- Completion of a treatment program
- Restrictions or conditions on your practice
- License suspension
- License revocation
Why You Need a Lento Law Firm Attorney
You probably already have a sense of why you need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team, but let's review here.
- The bottom line is that you cannot practice medicine without a license. If your license is in jeopardy, then it's no exaggeration to say that your entire career is under threat.
- The Wisconsin Medical Examining Board is not on your side in these cases. Its job is to protect public health and safety, and that means determining whether or not you are fit to serve as a physician. From an ethical perspective, that should require the board to take an objective view of the matter. In actual fact, medical boards are under a tremendous amount of political pressure to find physicians guilty and to issue the most severe sanctions.
- A license defense is an extraordinarily complicated undertaking. You need a strong defense strategy. You need to know how to collect and organize evidence, how and when to file motions, the process for introducing evidence, and what questions to ask witnesses. You're a doctor. There's no question you're smart. You're not trained in legal procedure, though. Attorneys are.
So, you need an attorney. Not just any attorney will do, though. You need an attorney who understands the very specific requirements you must fulfill as a medical professional, someone who's familiar with the Wisconsin Medical Board, and someone who's experienced in protecting physician rights. In short, you need someone from the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team.
We get it: it can be tempting to hire a family or local attorney. They may know you already. Plus, they've got offices just right down the street. Yet, while a local attorney may be great for drafting a will, they won't have the particular experience you need for a license defense case. They won't have a working familiarity with the law, they won't know the issues that are at stake, and they won't have experience dealing with the particular elements of a medical board hearing.
If you're facing a charge of unprofessional conduct, you can't afford to take chances. You need an attorney from the Lento Law Firm.
Other Physicians License Concerns
Finally, it's worth knowing that an attorney from the Lento Law Firm can help with issues beyond obtaining, maintaining, and defending your medical license. Their experience working with medical professionals makes them uniquely qualified to keep you informed about changes to your profession and to advise you on a wide range of legal subjects.
For example, Lento Law Firm attorneys are up to date on how the law is evolving to deal with new technologies and innovations. They keep track of marijuana and abortion bills as they move through the state legislature. They know who sits on the Wisconsin Medical Examining Board, and they monitor how political developments impact the board's decisions.
Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team attorneys can help with accreditation issues as well. Universities and medical schools sometimes lose their accreditation. When that happens, it immediately throws graduates' credentials into question. Often, these cases are less about fighting for your license than negotiating a fair settlement that allows you to continue as a physician but gives the Medical Board cover with the public. The attorneys at the Lento Law Firm aren't just tenacious litigators. Yes, they'll fight for your rights, but they're also skilled negotiators who know how to get you the best possible resolution to your case, no matter the circumstances. In short, you don't have to be facing a crisis to call on the Lento Law Firm for help.
What Can the Lento Law Firm Team Do for You?
Your medical license means everything to you. It gives you the right to practice your profession. It certifies that you are qualified and experienced. It lets patients know that you can be trusted. If that license is being threatened in any way, you can't afford to take chances. You absolutely must do everything you can to defend yourself, and that starts with hiring the best legal representation you can.
The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team understands your situation. They've helped hundreds of doctors and other healthcare professionals handle similar situations. They know the law. They've studied it, and they keep up with how it continues to grow and evolve. And they know the licensing system in Wisconsin.
If your license is under threat, don't wait to see what might happen. Begin building your defense now.