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Seven Things To Know When You Receive A Notice Of Investigation From The Department Of Health

Criminal Acts' Effect on Practice Licenses

by Michael L. Smith, J.D., R.R.T.

Every healthcare provider knows that their license to practice can be disciplined for misconduct on the job. However, many are surprised to learn that they can be disciplined for actions that occur outside their professional lives.

Criminal arrests and convictions are the most common cause of disciplinary action outside the professional setting. A conviction for a felony directly related to the practice of a profession often results in license revocation. But a criminal conviction for a misdemeanor not directly related to the profession still can result in discipline.

Licensing authorities are charged with protecting the general public and not the individuals they regulate. Most healthcare practitioner practice acts include criminal convictions as one of the grounds for denial or discipline of a license. Some of those acts (for example, Florida) allow the disciplinary authority to impose discipline upon a conviction even when adjudication is withheld.

These authorities can and do impose discipline based upon the facts underlying a conviction, even when the conviction itself is not directly related to the practice of a profession.  For example, a conviction for driving under the influence or reckless driving can raise the question of whether the practitioner could be impaired or reckless while providing patient care.  The licensing authority will most likely investigate these matters and the facts underlying the offense to determine if the practitioner poses a threat to the public.

Practitioners who have been arrested generally want their criminal cases resolved as quickly and quietly as possible — with the emphasis on quietly.  Unfortunately, they may inadvertently accept a plea arrangement that results in severe discipline or revocation of their license.  All healthcare providers and their criminal attorneys should consider the consequences to the practitioner’s license before accepting a plea arrangement and should consult with an experienced health law attorney.

Most practice acts also require healthcare providers to report criminal convictions to their licensing authority. Regrettably, many healthcare providers learn of this requirement after they are cited for a violation. Generally, failure to report a criminal conviction to the licensing authority is a separate violation with its own penalty. More importantly, the licensing authority can easily prove a violation for failure to report a conviction.
Healthcare practitioners and their criminal attorneys must consider the professional consequences to the practitioner at the start of every criminal case.
Michael L. Smith, JD, RRT, is board certified in health law by The Florida Bar and practices at The Health Law Firm in Altamonte Springs, Fla. This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for formal legal advice.
This article was originally published in Advance for Respiratory Care and Sleep Medicine.