The threat of losing your license to practice as a respiratory care practitioner can be devastating. You may feel confused, frustrated, or simply overwhelmed about the process suddenly laid out before you. If you find yourself in this position, the best thing you can do is secure legal representation as soon as possible to make sure your interests are represented from the beginning of the process straight through until the end.
A lawyer experienced in defending the licenses of respiratory care practitioners knows the right questions to ask, the evidence you’ll need to develop and the correct procedures and timelines to follow. Moreover, by getting an Arizona respiratory care license defense lawyer now, you’ll have an advocate on your side who can negotiate on your behalf and guide you through the disciplinary process every step of the way—and the process can be complex. The legal team at Stewart Law Group can help you, contact our offices today.
The Board of Respiratory Care Examiners’ Disciplinary Process
Because the work of respiratory care practitioners is important to public health, safety and welfare, the Arizona legislature established the Board of Respiratory Care Examiners to regulate the profession. The legislature has charged the Board with regulating the licensure of respiratory care practitioners in order to protect the public from the “unauthorized and unqualified practice of respiratory care.”
The Board also handles complaints regarding any individuals licensed by the Board, whether the allegations come from fellow respiratory care practitioners, health care institutions or patients themselves. Moreover, the Board has the authority to investigate any concerns regarding a practitioner’s license that could lead to disciplinary action of its own accord.
Some of the most common allegations that can affect a respiratory care practitioner’s license include:
- Substance abuse
- Mental or physical incapacity
- Professional misconduct
- Negligence or incompetence
- Criminal convictions, especially those related to qualifications
- Sexual misconduct
If the Board believes the situation is an emergency, it may order a summary suspension of the license, which entitles the licensee to a formal hearing with the Board within 60 days. If you find yourself facing this procedure, it is imperative that you contact an experienced attorney immediately as a formal hearing essentially functions as a trial, as described in more detail below.
In a non-emergency situation, once a complaint is filed with the Board, the “Allegation Stage” begins. At this point, the licensee presents his or her case, but no questions by the Board are permitted. However, if the Board finds reasonable cause, it may require that the licensee undergo various tests to determine the licensee’s ability to practice; these may include psychological or physical testing, including alcohol and drug tests.
Upon consideration, the Board may recommend one of the following courses of action:
- If the Board decides the claim has no merit, dismiss the complaint.
- If the Board finds insufficient evidence to support direct action but sufficient evidence to notify the licensee that continuing the behavior in question could lead to further disciplinary proceedings, file a letter of concern.
- If the Board does not find unprofessional conduct occurred, but does believe rehabilitation is required, enter into a nondisciplinary agreement requiring completion of a certain number of continuing education hours.
- If the Board decides the claim has merit, request an “informal interview,” or, if it believes license revocation or suspension is warranted, issue a complaint for a “formal hearing.”
At an informal interview, the Board may ask questions to determine whether it should take further action regarding the allegation. Just as in the previous stage, the Board may dismiss the complaint or file a letter of concern.
If the Board finds the licensee has engaged in unprofessional conduct, the Board may file a “decree of censure,” which is an official action against the practitioner’s license, or restrict the licensee’s practice to specific settings. Probation is another option and may be disciplinary or non-disciplinary in nature. At its discretion, the Board may also order the licensee to complete continuing education hours or assess a fine of up to $500.
A formal hearing operates similarly to other courtroom trials: The licensee may deliver an opening statement, call witnesses, cross-examine the State’s witnesses and provide a closing statement. The Office of the Attorney General represents the State.
After both sides have presented their cases, the Board will deliberate and reach its decision. The State must prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence to prevail. Potential decisions by the Board include all those listed above, including dismissal and letter of concern, as well as suspension or revocation of your license.
As you can see, the disciplinary process can become rather complicated and even adversarial. Indeed, another advantage of having an experienced attorney as a buffer between you and the Board is that you can continue to be professional and cooperative while the respiratory care license attorney in Arizona takes charge of technical matters. Showing that you are open to addressing whatever issues may have merit can go a long way in resolving your case positively.
Respiratory Care Practitioner License Reinstatement
If your healthcare license has already been revoked, the Board considers the old license to be closed, and you must submit an Initial Application Packet as if you are applying for the first time. You must wait one year after license revocation to apply for a new license, and you may want to seek legal advice for the best way to present your new application.
While going through the disciplinary process is already stressful, you should also know that the Board is required by law to post all disciplinary orders and actions and non-disciplinary orders and actions (except letters of concern or advisory letters) on its website for five years. Pending investigations and complaints remain private.
In other words, disciplinary proceedings are serious and can remain a blot on your professional record for a considerable period of time, which makes it all the more important that you have an experienced attorney with you throughout the process.
If your respiratory care practitioner license is under threat, we can help. It may be tempting to challenge allegations on your own, but an experienced Arizona respiratory care license lawyer familiar with the process can work with you to develop the best comprehensive course of action in your situation. Give us a call at (602) 548-3400 or send us a message today so we can get started on defending your right to practice.