Don’t Lose Your Job, Too: The Healthcare Provider Disciplinary Process and Your Employer

Alex Fisher and Erin Tolbert, the creator of MidlevelU, discuss the implications of an investigation by a healthcare board, such as the Board of Nursing or the Board of Medical Examiners, on a healthcare provider’s employment. The original article and video, published on MidlevelU, can be found here. Although Erin and Alex discuss the effects of an investigation by a healthcare board in the context of nurse practitioners, the same advice applies to physicians and other healthcare providers.

Investigation by the Board of Nursing

Nurse Practitioners may face disciplinary action in one of two main categories: (1) prescribing and (2) professionalism. Typical disciplinary action for prescribing involves overprescribing, prescribing for patients without proper documentation, and prescribing without appropriate medical justification. By contrast, typical disciplinary actions for professionalism generally involve being dishonest at work, inappropriate relationships with patients, and any other sort of boundary crossing with patients or co-workers.

An investigation by the Board of Nursing, or another healthcare related board, does not necessarily mean a healthcare provider has done anything wrong, or that he or she will face discipline.

Disclosure to Your Employer: When to Wait

Typically, most investigators from the Department of Health and healthcare related boards will not disclosure their investigation of your license to your employer unless the investigator interviews your employer or co-workers as part of his or her investigation, or requests medical records or documentation from your employer. If the investigator has not disclosed the investigation to your employer, it may be best to wait to disclose until the results of the investigation are known–i.e., if the investigation is unfounded and the complaint will be dismissed, or if the healthcare board is planning on pursuing disciplinary action against your license.

Exception: Many hospital bylaws require that a healthcare provider with hospital privileges disclose the status of an investigation against the provider within a certain window of time. Be aware of any hospital bylaws or employer requirements that may require you to disclose the status of an investigation as soon as you become aware of it.

Disclosure to Your Employer: When to Disclose

If your employer has already been contacted by the Department of Health, or otherwise made aware of the investigation by someone else, I recommend disclosing, in a confidential setting, such as a closed-door office, rather than in the hallways of your clinic or hospital, the following to your direct supervisor:

  1. What the complaint was against you;
  2. What exactly is being investigated; and
  3. What the status of the investigation is.

When disclosing the details of the investigation to your employer, I recommend “being honest, and brief.” Crying while discussing an investigation with your employer, or over sharing your feelings or emotions regarding the investigation with your supervisor or co-workers is generally considered unprofessional, and could reflect poorly on you.

In Between Jobs? Read Carefully.

If you are applying for a new job while your license is under investigation, be diligent in carefully reading questions on any job application. One application may request disclosure of any “investigations” into your license, while another application may simply ask for the disclosure of any “discipline” against your license. Be sure to answer appropriately.

Having your license under investigation can be a disconcerting and difficult process, so if possible, I recommend hiring counsel to advocate for you as early as possible in any investigation into your license.