Tag: licensing board investigation

Two “red flags” when interviewing a licensing lawyer to defend your medical license

Red flag #1: Blaming the licensing Board’s investigator

Earlier this year, a practitioner hired me as her second lawyer, and I took over the representation of her case. Later, after much of our work had been completed, she expressed surprise at how helpful the investigator had been. When I asked her why she was surprised, she explained that her first lawyer blamed the investigator, saying something like, “Oh, you have Jane Doe for an investigator, you’re in trouble.” That was unfortunate. I have worked with the same investigator and find her easy to work with. More importantly, I regularly represent nurses, pharmacists and physicians before the Oregon State Board of Nursing, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, and the Oregon Medical Board, and there has never been a reason to blame the investigator. It is my opinion that if a lawyer you interview blames the investigator, keep interviewing lawyers until you find one that works well with investigators. Your interests will be better served in the short and long run.

Red flag #2: Utilizing a litigious approach with an investigator

Last year I had a chance to ask an investigator what she thought of the relatively small group of lawyers that routinely appear before her licensing Board. I was surprised to learn that some used a tough approach, keeping communications short, and often implying that a contested case hearing (litigation) would be necessary when, in fact, they seldom are. Needless to say, these lawyers, due to their uncooperative reputations, were not favored by the investigators. As my record will demonstrate, I am willing to advance tough litigation in defense of physicians, pharmacists, and nurses, but litigation must be reserved for the right circumstances.

More importantly, consider the disadvantage you may suffer because of your lawyer’s “tough talk.” For example, throughout the course of a licensing Board’s investigation, much information must be exchanged, and any alleged practice discrepancy prompting the complaint against you must be carefully evaluated. Consider also that you will most likely be interviewed by the investigator, and much of the work of the interview can be accomplished between your lawyer and the investigator, sparing you much grief. Whatever the cause of the complaint, solutions must be negotiated. Ultimately, the investigator will write the summary of your case, including recommendations, that will become the basis of the Board’s decision against your medical license. For all these reasons, it is my opinion that a cooperative and professional relationship between your lawyer and your licensing Board’s investigator will lead to the most efficient and complete exchange of information, and the best resolution of your case. Along the way, you will be better informed too.

When facing serious discipline, do not assume your license in another state is safe

In a prior post on August 30, 2015, I cautioned against applying for a new license in a second state before an investigation in your home state is concluded. The reason was simple. Once you are disciplined by one state licensing Board, the licensing Boards in the other states in which you are licensed will likely follow suit by opening a second investigation, often imposing some form of discipline, or even mirror-image discipline, sometimes called “reciprocal discipline.” Knowing this, it is almost always a mistake to apply for a new license in another state while a current investigation and potential for discipline is pending against you in your home state. It just leads to another investigation in a state you have never practiced. Don’t risk it, unless there are extenuating circumstances and the consequences are fully understood. This practical advice applies whether you are licensed as a physician, pharmacist, or nurse, facing discipline by the Oregon Medical Board, the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, or the Oregon State Board of Nursing.

Today’s warning

Today I have a different warning: If you are facing serious discipline by your home state licensing Board, do not simply assume that your license in another state is safe. Here’s why: Once you are disciplined by your home state, you will likely have an obligation to report that discipline to all other licensing Boards in all other states in which you are licensed. Even if you fail to self-report your discipline to the other state licensing Boards, your discipline may be reported to a national data bank, and the other state licensing Boards will learn of your discipline through the national data bank. So, I repeat myself: If you are facing serious discipline by your home state licensing Board, do not simply assume that your license in another state is safe, and this practical advice applies whether you are licensed as a pharmacist, physician, or nurse, facing discipline by the Oregon Board of Pharmacy, the Oregon Medical Board, or the Oregon State Board of Nursing.

Work for the best result, but plan for the worst result

As I write this, I can think of one individual who lost his license in a revocation proceeding all the while thinking he could move to a nearby state in which he was licensed. It is, unfortunately, never that simple when a health care provider’s medical license is revoked or surrendered. And never forget that some serious offenses, the type of offenses that may lead to the surrender or revocation of your license to practice medicine, pharmacy or nursing, may result in your being excluded – i.e., federal exclusion by the Office of the Inspector General, or “OIG” – from participation in any employment that receives federal subsidies, reimbursement, or payment, which is most of the employments available to you as a physician, pharmacist, or nurse.

Be conservative to avoid surprises

This is important: Whenever you consent to discipline in one state, analyze the impact of that discipline on licenses you hold in other states. Always assume that similar discipline will follow in all other states in which you are licensed until you know otherwise. Be smart, make decisions and plan accordingly. And do not forget to consider the risk of federal exclusion by the OIG. In sum, you may be able to practice in another state after surrendering or being revoked elsewhere, but do the hard work first, and do not rely upon assumptions. An experienced licensing Board attorney can guide you through the analysis.

Common mistakes licensees make when communicating with their licensing Boards – Part I

Knowing that you are under investigation by your licensing Board will, in the best of cases, create a sense of unease, and, in the worst of cases, create a sense of panic. How you respond when you are under investigation is crucial. If you are represented by experienced licensure counsel, your lawyer will take control of the communications and the deadlines. In doing so, your licensure lawyer will create a “comfort zone,” sparing you much grief and anxiety, while serving the greater purpose of providing you with legal representation.

What you need to know

If you are under investigation, the record you are creating is a public record, and it will be the record that is litigated should your case proceed to hearing. This is why the communications you receive from your investigator are formal, cogent, and professional – your investigator knows what he or she is doing. Similarly, your licensure lawyer’s communications, sent on your behalf, will be coordinated, thoughtful, and legally strategic. In the most difficult of cases, this is absolutely necessary to succeed, and in the easiest cases, this is still necessary to help you prevent mistakes.

Where the trouble starts

All too often, however, licensees defend their cases on their own, usually until one or more common mistakes become apparent, compelling the licensee to retain licensure counsel. Such mistakes often fall into two broad categories. Licensees in the first category, not sure what to do, but feeling the need to do something, communicate too freely, too casually, and too often, with their licensing Boards. Conversely, licensees in the second category, feeling overwhelmed, if not threatened, are slow to respond, or fail to respond at all. Next week I will share a few examples of common mistakes.