4 Actions To Take Immediately After Being Notified Of A Complaint That Threatens Your Medical License
Becoming a doctor takes anywhere from 9 to 16 years of hard work, perseverance, and study, yet a single complaint about your conduct or care can threaten to end your entire career. Many doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals panic when they receive a notification of an investigation from their state's licensing board. Instead of panicking, call a trusted professional license attorney, then take these five actions to prepare for the challenges ahead.
Keep It a Private Matter
It's tempting to fire back at the person filing a complaint with a letter, email, or phone call that is full of blistering insults and threats, but this is perhaps the worst thing you can do after being accused of neglect or ethical violations. Instead, keep the matter private and only discuss it with your lawyer and family members that could be affected if you do lose your license. Don't even turn to social media in an attempt to defend your public image, since the information you post on those websites can be used during the hearing. You should also avoid talking to
- Medical board members you may know personally and outside of a professional context, since this causes a conflict of interest
- Witnesses and employees that may be called to testify during a hearing, since it could appear you're trying to sway their testimony
- Investigators sent by the board to check your records or workplace, unless your lawyer is present to monitor the conversation.
Respond Immediately to the Board
While you shouldn't be contacting the initiator of the complaint, if you know or think you know who's responsible, you do need to write a formal letter of response to the allegations made about your conduct as quickly as possible in most states. For example, the Texas Medical Board wraps up the initial investigation of a claim within 30 days of notifying the medical professional, so you can't spend two weeks formulating your response letter to explain your side of the story. Enlist your lawyer's help in organizing the information, gathering evidence, and writing out the most compelling defense possible and there's a good chance your case will be dismissed without you even going in front of the licensing board.
Don't be tempted to turn over every record and piece of information you have about the complaint along with the initial response either. While state medical boards definitely have rights in regards to requesting this kind of information, there are limits to what they can request and at what point in the process they can request them. Let your lawyer pick which records should accompany the letter, which should be set aside in case of a hearing, and which information the board is not allowed to request based on state laws. Giving them too many records slows down the investigation process and could result in more serious charges than you originally faced.
Alert Your Insurer
If you're well-prepared, part of your medical malpractice insurance should be specifically for cases that involve formal complaints to the state's medical board. Even if you don't have a separate clause for protection in cases that threaten your medical license, you need to notify the insurer holding your malpractice insurance immediately. Failing to tell your insurer about a complaint about you, even if it doesn't involve malpractice, could cost you the policy and make it difficult to find a replacement even after you're cleared of all charges by the licensing board.
Focus on Your Mental Health
Even when you know a complaint is completely ridiculous and without merit, it's extremely stressful to deal with threats to the career that you worked so hard to earn. Taking time off, seeing a therapist, or joining a support group will not make you look guilty in front of the licensing board. You don't need to force yourself to act as if everything is normal just to put up a strong front if you're really struggling to stay on top of everything after receiving notification of an investigation.