As an Arizona healthcare professional, you work tirelessly to bring smiles to your patients’ faces. It’s not an easy job, but it is rewarding. Nothing beats the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve made a difference.
You love your job; the mere thought of losing your license brings you pain. Sadly, it’s a fate that destroys far too many careers in the great state of Arizona. Seemingly ludicrous allegations can bring down well-established professionals. Don’t put your career in jeopardy by failing to take ‘minor’ complaints seriously. With the Stewart Law Group on your side, you can rest assured, knowing that every effort will be made to preserve your healthcare career.
Why You Need Strong Legal Representation
Organizations such as the Arizona State Board of Nursing and the Arizona State Board of Physical Therapy do not view complaints lightly. Don’t assume that they’ll throw out ‘minor’ complaints. Sometimes, issues that initially seem frivolous reveal a greater pattern of unprofessional conduct. As such, state-sanctioned departments and boards cannot afford to set aside any complaint, no matter how small.
How the Stewart Law Group Can Help
We get it: you’re dealing with a variety of difficult emotions as you consider the possibility of losing your license. You’re shocked, anxious, and angry. Don’t let these feelings cloud your judgment as you strive to keep your license.
Right now, you need patient counsel and proactive representation. You’ll receive exactly that when you work with the Stewart Law Group. An Arizona-based firm, we understand the legal complexities of license defense. We’ll guide you through this difficult process and help you retain your license, no matter how impossible that may seem. We’re happy to help every step of the way, from responding to your initial complaint to appearing at a hearing.
Types of Healthcare Licenses We Defend
All healthcare workers deserve quality representation in the face of license revocation. We serve medical professionals at all levels and from all areas of healthcare. Our practice regularly takes on the following healthcare license cases:
- Physician assistants
- Dental hygienists
- Physical therapists<
- Physical therapy assistants
- Respiratory care practitioners
Legislation concerning licensure of healthcare workers is outlined in several sections of Title 32 of the Arizona Revised Statutes, including:
- Chapter 11: Dentistry
- Chapter 13: Medicine and Surgery
- Chapter 15: Nursing
- Chapter 18: Pharmacy
- Chapter 19: Board of Physical Therapy
- Chapter 25: Physician Assistants
- Chapter 32: Health Professionals
- Chapter 34: Occupational Therapists
- Chapter 35: Respiratory Care
Examples of Healthcare Worker Allegations
You strive to uphold your profession’s code of ethics every day. Unfortunately, you face the constant potential for wrongful allegations. From overprescribing medication to sexual misconduct, a variety of accusations can lead to license loss. These complaints may be legitimate…or they may be the work of an unreasonable former co-worker or patient. At the Stewart Law Group, we’re prepared to deal with it all, no matter how ridiculous the allegations may seem.
Not sure if the accusations you face fall under the scope of our legal practice? The following are just a few of the healthcare license cases we’d be happy to take on:
- Criminal convictions. Felony convictions often result in loss of license. With misdemeanors, disciplinary action depends on the nature of the crime.
- Fraudulently procuring a license. If the board determines that a healthcare worker’s license was never valid in the first place, it will almost certainly be revoked.
- Problematic prescription practices. Examples include over-prescribingo, under-prescribing, or inadequate monitoring of currently prescribed drugs. This is of particular concern in light of Arizona’s opioid crisis. For example, a Tucson doctor recently lost his license after inappropriately prescribing opioids.
- Substance abuse. Healthcare workers are barred from using illicit drugs. Alcohol impairment is also grounds for license loss. A gray area may emerge for prescribed drugs that impact the professional’s conduct. Even if substances are not used on the job, they can impact quality of care. For this reason, several healthcare agencies encourage reporting colleagues (or self-reporting) for substance abuse. Reported individuals may be eligible for the Monitored Aftercare Treatment Program.
- Poor maintenance of patient records. A small error in reporting could spell the difference between life or death for a patient in critical condition. Allegations may arise if a healthcare worker fails to maintain charts according to professional guidelines.
- Substandard quality of care. This is often the most complicated allegation to prove, as definitions surrounding quality of care can vary greatly depending on the situation. For example, care could be deemed substandard if a nurse with multiple patients failed to prioritize according to the urgency of each health issue.
- Failure to report. Healthcare professionals can be accused of unprofessional conduct if they neglect to disclose healthcare co-workers as incompetent.
What If You Receive a Notice of Investigation or Complaint?
Get in touch with a trusted attorney the moment you become aware of a pending investigation. A board representative may attempt to get in touch; refuse to speak unless accompanied by an attorney. Board representatives may seem understanding, but they’ll happily use your response against you. From the onset of your case, legal representation is your best defense against self-incrimination.
Avoid the temptation to discuss your case with co-workers, supervisors, or patients. These individuals may serve as witnesses in your case. Seemingly sympathetic people could provide surprisingly damaging testimony.
Before your initial consultation with your attorney, jot down everything you remember about the situation that led to a complaint. Mention the date, setting, names of witnesses, and any other details you recall. You will remember less as time goes on; early recollections may streamline your attorney’s investigation.
How the License Investigation Process Works
The investigation process varies somewhat from one healthcare profession to the next. Most, however, follow the same general pattern.
Following complaint submission, your occupation’s state board will assign an investigator to your case. This person will use subpoena power to access a variety of documents. These could include medical records, police reports, or employee files.
As the board investigates your case, your attorney will launch a parallel investigation and attempt to gain access to similar documents. Additionally, your lawyer will consult with you and witnesses to record an alternate side of the story.
After supplying a Notice of Complaint, the board may also send a questionnaire. This document may feature questions that seem irrelevant to your case. Answer these queries under supervision from your attorney. Likewise, your attorney should be present for any requested investigative interviews.
Following a thorough investigation, the board’s appointed surveyor will release results in an official summary. Investigative reports are often one-sided. Unfortunately, this document will play a critical role in determining your case’s outcome. The board will most likely discuss the report during a regular meeting. At this time, your attorney may present a compelling argument opposing the report’s findings.
Depending on the case, the board may offer a settlement agreement. You may be encouraged to voluntarily surrender your license. This approach may initially seem favorable compared to permanent revocation, but it’s not always in your best interest.
If you reject the disciplinary action selected by the board, you can present your case before an administrative law judge. As with the board meeting, your lawyer should represent you at this hearing. The administrative law judge may make recommendations based on evidence presented at your hearing, but the board still enjoys final authority for your case.
What Happens If You Lose Your Hearing?
If you lose your disciplinary hearing, you could suffer a variety of consequences. Examples include:
- Denial of certification
- License suspension
- License revocation
- Denial of license reinstatement
- Decree of censure
- Civil penalty
The board may frame the loss of your license as temporary, but it could easily spell the end of your healthcare career. Arizona employers typically avoid hiring applicants with adverse board records. Currently, boards post disciplinary measures online, where it is easily accessible by prospective employers.
Even a career change may not improve your prospects following board-based disciplinary action. Employers in other industries thoroughly research your background. They may view the presence of an official disciplinary action review on your professional record as cause for concern.
Reapplying For Your License
License suspension periods vary from one healthcare profession to the next. Severity of the transgression may also determine how long you wait for reinstatement. Depending on how long you go without your license, you may be forced to apply again — much like a new professional. Unfortunately, unlike a healthcare worker new to the field, several additional obstacles will stand in your way. You may be asked to complete special coursework or practice with a temporary license.
As re-application eligibility approaches, work with a trusted attorney to craft a compelling submission. Your lawyer can help you avoid roadblocks in the application process — and get you licensed as quickly as possible.
The Future of Disciplinary Action in Arizona
Currently, state law prohibits Arizona healthcare boards from posting actions taken against medical professionals online. For wrongfully accused healthcare workers, this law may be the only barrier protecting them from professional ruin, especially following non-disciplinary actions. That may change soon.
Following a 2017 ABC15 investigation, Senator Nancy Barto attempted to reverse a 2010 provision allowing concealment of non-disciplinary measures. Governor Doug Ducey vetoed Barto’s bill, but it enjoyed strong legislative support. In the future, a similar bill could easily pass. This would leave employees at greater risk of professional ruin after suffering so-called non-disciplinary action from one-sided state boards.
When your reputation and hard-fought career are at stake, you deserve nothing short of exceptional representation. The team at Stewart Law Group provides the comprehensive, personalized legal support needed to bring your case to a prompt and satisfactory close. Call us today at (602) 548-3400 to learn more about our license defense services — and how we can safeguard your medical career.