Don't Go Before Your Professional Board Without an Attorney!
I thought about not writing this blog. Some will think I'm just writing this to market our legal services. I'm not.
This short article is just my thoughts on what happens when health care workers jeopardize their licenses by going in front of their professional board (Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing...Board of Dentistry, Pharmacy, and so on....) without a lawyer. The old saying "you get what you pay for" is applicable here. In Florida, professional boards have their own lawyer, known as the "Board Attorney" and the Department of Health which brings the charges against a licensed health care professional has an attorney present at every Board meeting who serves as the "prosecuting attorney" and works in a division of DOH known as "Prosecution Services Unit" or PSU.
The excuses for not hiring a lawyer are many: "I can't afford it" --is the most common. Followed by, "this is easy I read all about the law on Google and can represent myself." A third often heard golden oldie is "I spoke to the attorneys or investigators at DOH and they said everything will be fine." I'm not going to go into why these excuses are foolish, but suffice it to say you are putting your career and professional license at great risk.
- The Board Attorney and the DOH Attorney do not work for you.
- Your Professional Board is charged with not protecting you, but protecting the public.
- The members of your Board are appointed by the Governor and take their job seriously e.g., they want to be seen as regulating the profession.
- Chances are:
- You are not well versed in the Florida Statutes and Florida Administrative Code provisions that regulate your profession.
- Chances are you aren't familiar with the dynamics of an investigation into a licensee by DOH and the "ins and outs" of how to get a good result before the Board.
- Have not developed the professional relationships that experienced lawyers that deal with these Boards have. Because we deal with these government offices everyday we are familiar with what the regulators look for and ways to take a difficult and challenging case and make it into a good result.
We have observed individuals go before their Board without an attorney and think that the Board ruled in their favor, only to get a Final Order in the mail indicating that the Board actually revoked or suspended their license. We have watched unrepresented professionals state on the record (Board hearings are recorded) to the Board facts or opinions that only aggravated a Board member(s) and caused the penalties to the licensee to be greater.
Then there is the confusion between whether unrepresented licensee has elected a Formal or Informal Hearing under Chapter 120, Florida Statutes. While an Informal Hearing may sound safe and cozy to the citizen unfamiliar with the process, it has the legal effect of an admission to the allegations and a confession that you violated the law. Similarly, non-lawyers are unfamiliar with the fact that an admission of liability (think "guilt") gets eventually reported to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB), when the Board takes action.
If you receive a letter of an investigation, Administrative Complaint, or Emergency Suspension Order from the Florida Department of Health, contact an experienced health care attorney who is familiar with DOH and professional Boards in Florida. Your license is your livelihood and you should not scrimp and cut corners. Your case should be handled professionally.
For a FREE no obligation consultation call us to schedule an appointment at 850-877-7776.