By: Brian Wilson, DO & Kyle Ulveling, MD & Robert F. Priddy
Loss of license is a devastating event for a physician. It's not just the absence of a license and a mechanism for making a living, but the act or issues that led to the revocation of the license. Whether it's malpractice, substance abuse, some alleged egregious administrative act or other, it's a challenge to your professionalism, to your identity and to who and what you've worked your entire life to be.
It may seem like the end, but it's not. One of the unfortunate realities of medical practice and the medical profession is that everyone you've encountered, from your first day of medical school to you last day of residency or fellowship, and even on into the "doctors lounge," has expected you to practice medicine until you can no longer work.
Many physicians expect their state medical board members to review their data much like they would a medical record. Objective information is paramount and understanding intent by reading a bit between the lines is only fair, right? Wrong. You’re not being asked to represent yourself and present information, you’re there to defend yourself. An allegation of wrong doing has been made, and it was serious enough for the board to take action to defend its responsibilities, which is protecting the public, and the medical profession against physicians who commit wrong doing, intentional or not, malfeasance or mistake… doesn’t matter. So presenting a defense is very different from an objective presentation of the facts… the facts as you see them and as your supporting documentation may present.
Presenting your defense is based on several factors. The facts represent one factor, but also the context of the facts, and how your facts are delivered to the board represent multiple other factors. Your facts may go beyond the specific event. Past patient interactions may be helpful in creating a fuller, more accurate picture. Supporting staff observations and knowledge of the patient and the situation could be useful. And finally, how you physically present yourself in front of the board is extremely important. How you look, what you say, and how you say it will set the tone for all important first in-person impressions of you. Remember, the real “first impression” was made of you in the complaint. You’re playing catch up from the very beginning.
As physician state medical board members, we’ve seen this play out hundreds of time. Some physicians do themselves more harm than good when they show up for a hearing. They may decide they know more than the board members, see their attorney’s instructions as overly controlling and are simply insulted to be called. Others are overly defensive and yet others may be too deferential to adequate defend themselves. We’ve seen guilty physicians convey an air of innocence and the innocent appear guilty. And both guilt and innocence are usually measured in degrees.
If you find a letter from your state medical board in your inbox, don’t panic - prepare. You need to look at your situation critically and consider this a process that demands your serious attention and your ability to take positive steps that involve not only you, but appropriate advisors as well. You need to:
You further as a practicing physician depends greatly on both what you say and how you say it when appearing at a state medical board hearing. Experienced legal counsel is an imperative, but professional support to help you shape your presence and your words can be equally important. Never think that your opinion that you did the right thing and the “right” will win out will be your best defense.
About the author: I provide my clients with what I call a CareerDiagnosis™. It's two days focused on learning about desirable and appropriate career paths to follow. I follow a SOAP note to collect that information. So, you can see, transitioning is a process, but it should be a structured and orderly process that takes you to a positive and rewarding career.
If you'd like to learn more, don't hesitate to contact me for an initial, no-charge, no-obligation Hallway Consult... call/text 720-339-3585or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More advice by Robert Priddy-The Resume Recruiters and HR People Hate, Physician Career Change, Never Overestimate the Knowledge of Your Audience, and Self Protection Is Self Defeating
Career Advice From the Experts and Leaders in Healthcare Careers