If your state medical license or federal DEA Registration is under investigation for alleged violations of the standard of care or other practice-related issues, your ability to practice your profession is at stake. A civil investigation involving your state medical license or DEA Registration is a legal process driven by complex administrative law, and I encourage you to seek legal advice immediately. I represent physicians, pharmacists, and nurses before the DEA and the following State licensing Boards:
- Oregon Medical Board
- Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the
- Oregon State Board of Nursing
I also represent physicians, pharmacists, and nurses in investigations initiated by the following State and Federal agencies:
- Department of Human Services (DHS) (typically defending against findings of patient abuse)
- Office of the Inspector General (OIG) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) (typically defending against “mandatory” or “permissive” exclusion from federally funded programs), and the
- Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) (typically defending DEA Registrations)
The common range of sanctions imposed by licensing Boards
If you are a physician, pharmacist, or nurse, being investigated by the Oregon Medical Board, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, or the Oregon State Board of Nursing, you may face professional discipline. Professional discipline may include any of the following sanctions:
- being reprimanded
- having your license to practice medicine, pharmacy, nursing or other profession temporarily suspended, indefinitely suspended, or permanently suspended
- monetary fines
- continuing education
- recurrent training
- the imposition of a mentor and monitoring
- probation (three to five years is not uncommon) and
- having your license to practice medicine, pharmacy, nursing, or other profession permanently revoked
One or more sanctions, in combination, may be proposed or sought by your licensing Board, as the Board sees fit. An experienced licensure lawyer will know if your case is defensible. If settlement is your goal, settlement may involve some combination of the above sanctions. An experienced licensure lawyer, one with a good working relationship with your licensing Board, can help you settle your case quickly and fairly, without exposing you to unnecessary risk and expense.
Substance abuse and fitness to practice
If substance abuse is involved, then you should expect to complete a drug or alcohol evaluation and the recommended drug treatment necessary to restore your health. If your fitness to practice as a physician, pharmacist, or nurse is at issue, these assessments may be both extensive and expensive, and may require travel to an approved facility.
If substance abuse is involved, a lawyer experienced with the Oregon Medical Board, Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the Oregon State Board of Nursing, will know the steps necessary to facilitate your entry into treatment. This is important, because early treatment is important, and you have an opportunity early on to take control of many decisions. If you wait too long, however, you will cede control of these decisions to your licensing Board, and your position will be considerably weaker.
Lastly, if your substance abuse includes criminal activity that your licensing Board may be required to report to State of Federal law enforcement, you will want a lawyer sensitive to this type of exposure.
The Board’s concerns
The general concerns of the Oregon Medical Board, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the Oregon State Board of Nursing, is to ensure public safety and the competency of the individual practitioner. If a pharmacy is involved, the Board of Pharmacy will further seek to ensure the security of the drug inventory. The same is true of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
Getting involved from the beginning
Your best strategy when defending your medical license or DEA Registration during a civil investigation is to engage the process from the onset. Too many nurses, pharmacists and physicians wait to obtain legal advice until shortly before or after being interviewed by nurse investigators from the Oregon State Board of Nursing, pharmacy inspectors from the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, or a sub-committee of physicians from the Oregon Medical Board. This is an important: A recorded interview conducted by nurse investigators, pharmacy inspectors, of a sub-committee of physicians is no place to learn about your case, to “show up and see how it goes.” Remember, if your recorded interview goes poorly, damage is done, and that interview is a permanent part of your record.
Worse yet, some physicians, pharmacists, and nurses wait until after receiving written findings and proposed sanctions from their licensing Boards. By this time, conclusions about your practice have been established, and your opportunity to participate and influence proposed findings and sanctions has been greatly diminished. I may still be able to help you, but the next step is often a less-than-desirable settlement, or to defend yourself at an administrative hearing.
Finding your best solution
Most civil license investigations reach their best resolution during the early phases, in the form of a settlement, well before a hearing. Most physicians, pharmacists, and nurses report that defending a medical license at an administrative hearing is a very unsatisfying experience. And although it is possible to successfully appeal a loss at hearing, an appeal is your last line of defense, not your first, and seldom a good bet. Do not wait to become involved. Early action is the best way to protect your medical license or DEA Registration, and to control expense.
Please call to learn more about my licensure practice, 503.274.4048.