The Law Offices of Brian E. Quinn

Is medical licensing oversight getting more aggressive?

Professional oversight of licensed medical professionals falls to individual state agencies. According to a recent article, nursing boards in many different states have tigthened their oversight protocols in the past 15 years. 

In the specific example of nurses, applicants for nursing licenses may be screened more thoroughly, possibly including background checks or even the submission of fingerprints. Between 1998 and 2014, the number of states that performed background checks on nurses grew from five to 37. 

Enforcement efforts have also tigthened. That could mean swifter investigations of complaints, and/or faster outcomes or sanctions. Yet the level of enforcement is uneven across the country. Whereas New York’s nursing oversight agency, the Office of the Professionals, disciplined around 1 in every 1,190 nurses in 2014, a Midwestern state disciplined many more of its nurses in 2014, about 1 in 153.

In this aggressive oversight climate, it is important for a licensed medical professional to consult with an attorney at the first sign of any trouble. Notably, that consultation might even come before an individual has been licensed, to the extent that a background check resulted in an unfavorable outcome. For those already licensed, an attorney can work to protect the individual’s livelihood while developing a strong professional license defense for any allegations of misconduct or unprofessional behavior.

An attorney’s involvement may also remind licensing and professional oversight agencies of the importance of resolving cases without undue delays. It is unfair to everyone involved when an investigation of professional misconduct is not resolved quickly. The public’s safety could be compromised during that time, and the licensee under investigation could be subjected to emotional distress and potentially lost income or reduced wages. 

Source: Medical Daily, “Weak Oversight Lets Dangerous Nurses Work in New York,” Daniela Porat, April 12, 2016

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