Frequently Asked Questions

What should I do if a complaint is filed against me?

Most licensees first learn about an investigation when they receive a phone call or a copy of a complaint in the mail or email from a Department of Health Professions investigator. While any complaint should be taken seriously, most complaints are closed with no action.

What happens during a Board investigation?

An investigator from the Department of Health Professions will gather information from the source of the complaint and conduct interviews with the licensee and any relevant witnesses. The investigator will then compile the information into a report that will be submitted to the relevant Board.

If the complaint is frivolous can I just ignore it?

Ignoring a complaint is a bad idea. The laws regulating health care professionals require individuals licensed by any board to provide information requested by the Board or any investigator with the Department of Health Professions. Failure to provided information as requested can lead to disciplinary action. However, there is no need to volunteer information or to let yourself be intimidated or bullied.

Do I have to speak to the investigator or cooperate?

An attorney can help ensure your rights are respected during the investigation process. If you have an attorney, only your attorney should communicate with the investigator. It is important to be polite and cooperative with the investigator.

If you are contacted by an investigator, it is appropriate to politely tell the investigator that you would like to consult with legal counsel prior to answering any questions about the complaint.

Do I need an attorney?

An attorney can help you navigate the Board’s process and present your responses to questions clearly and concisely. An attorney will also help you prepare additional information to submit to the investigator to ensure the investigator’s report contains complete, accurate facts about the allegations.

If the Board decides potential disciplinary action is needed, an attorney will help prepare you for any hearings and potentially negotiate a resolution.

An attorney can also address other consequences of disciplinary action taken against you, such as credentialing and peer review issues, third party payor concerns, and any associated criminal matters.

How long will the investigation take?

Investigations are typically completed within two to three months of a complaint being filed. Once an investigation is complete, any evidence gathered is sent to the relevant board for review. Typically, it takes a Board several months to review a case and determine whether to close the case or proceed to disciplinary proceedings. Cases involving allegations that a licensee is an imminent danger to the public may be addressed by the Board more quickly, but most cases do not fall into this category.

In most cases, The Department of Health Professions’ goal is to resolve cases within a year of receiving the initial complaint. However, some cases can take longer.

Can I work if I am under investigation?

Generally, yes. Unless the Board has taken action to summarily suspend a license (a rare situation), individuals with unexpired licenses are able to continue practicing.

Do I need to tell my employer if I am under investigation?

There is no statute or regulation in Virginia that requires a licensee to inform an employer if they are under investigation. However, some employment contracts, malpractice insurance policies, and third-party payor contracts may require disclosure. You should consult an attorney regarding any potential notice requirements.

How will the Board make a decision whether or not to discipline me?

Each Board reviews the evidence gathered during an investigation and then decides whether it wishes to pursue potential disciplinary action. Except in rare cases when the Board summarily suspends a license, no determination can be made and no disciplinary action can be taken against a licensee without an opportunity to address allegations through administrative proceedings. Licensees have rights during these proceedings.

What happens after the investigation is complete?

The investigator will submit a report along with all gathered evidence to the Board. The Board will review this report for probable cause, meaning that the evidence is sufficient to indicate that a violation of law or regulation might have occurred.

Once the Board completes its review of the report and corresponding evidence, there are a variety of outcomes:

  • The Board can issue a letter stating the complaint has been closed with no action, meaning there has been no finding of a violation.
  • The Board could issue an advisory letter, monetary penalty, confidential consent order, pre-hearing consent order, or a notice of informal conference.
  • In rare cases, the Board will issue a summary suspension of your license.

What typically happens in a case like mine?

All cases are reviewed on an individual basis. While we have experience with a variety of cases, we cannot offer any guarantees as to the outcome of your case. Mellette PC attorneys will use our extensive experience and expertise to present your case to the Board, ensure that the Board is aware of all necessary facts and any mitigating circumstances, and provide any relevant legal arguments.

Each Board has developed a Sanctioning Reference Point system for certain cases that it regularly reviews. This system allows the Board to standardize disciplinary actions in certain cases. The Sanctioning Reference Points can be used as initial guidance on how the Board might view your case. However, the Sanctioning Reference Points are only a guide, and the Board is not bound by them.

What is an Informal Conference?

An informal conference is a meeting to discuss allegations one-on-one with the Board. In order to respond to the allegations, you must be present at the informal conference. If you are not present, the Board will decide your case based on the evidence compiled by the investigator.

You will receive a copy of the evidence submitted to the Board by the investigator prior to the informal conference. The Board will set a deadline for submission of any other documents or materials you believe are relevant to their decision prior to the informal conference. Failure to adhere to the deadline could result in the Board disregarding additional evidence. You may subpoena necessary documents that you believe are relevant to the Board’s decision.

At the informal conference, the Board will review the allegations and the investigator’s report, as well as any information you have provided prior to the informal conference. The Board is able to ask you questions, and you will have the opportunity to respond to the allegations.

Informal conferences are public proceedings. The Board will decide whether you will be able to present any witnesses at the informal conference.

What if I cannot attend the informal conference on the scheduled date?

You may immediately request a continuance in writing. You should provide a reason the continuance=, such as needing more time to find legal counsel. The Board will then decide whether to grant or deny your request. If you have an attorney, your attorney should make the request for you.

The allegations against me involve my personal medical and/or mental health records. Will the public hear this information?

As all meetings and hearings of the Boards are open to the public, individuals attending might hear this personal information. However, you may request a closed meeting to discuss personal medical and/or mental health records. All other evidence and testimony relevant to your case will be heard in an open meeting.

If I don’t agree with the Board’s decision following an Informal Conference, what can I do?

Following the Board’s decision at an informal conference, you may request a formal hearing in writing within the appeal deadlines set forth in the Board’s decision. A Formal Hearing is similar to a courtroom trial.

If you disagree with the Board’s decision following the Formal Hearing, you may appeal the decision to the circuit court. The appeal must be in writing and conform to the appeal deadlines contained in the Board’s decision and the requirements of Virginia Supreme Court Rules.

Additional information regarding the informal and formal hearing process can be found at: http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/PractitionerResources/Enforcement/FAQ/

The Board has offered me a Consent Order. I agree that I made the mistakes listed in the proposed Consent Order. Is it worth disputing?

A Consent Order is a public document that stays on the practitioner’s record for the rest of their career and can carry significant collateral consequences. Even in cases where a practitioner may agree that they made a mistake, Mellette PC attorneys have been successful in negotiating revisions to proposed Consent Orders that reduce the sanction, correct inaccurate factual findings, add mitigating information, and potentially minimize future consequences. The attorneys of Mellette PC can help you review an offered Consent Order and decide whether to ask for revisions or proceed to an Informal Conference.

What is the Health Practitioners Monitoring Program (HPMP)?

The Health Practitioners’ Monitoring Program is intended to help healthcare professionals with substance use disorders, mental health conditions, or physical conditions that may be impairing their ability to effectively practice. HPMP refers practitioners for treatment and provides ongoing monitoring of treatment progress.

In order to be eligible, a practitioner must hold a current, active license, certification, or registration issued by a health regulatory board in Virginia or a multistate licensure privilege.

Mellette PC attorneys work with clients who may need assistance due to an impairment because of chemical dependency, physical, or mental disability. On your behalf, we may seek a stay of disciplinary action or resolution of an investigation with no action if you complete the terms of your HPMP contract.

HPMP is not right for everyone. You should be sure you understand all requirements of participation in HPMP prior to joining.  

Providers should promptly seek any health care they need and work with their health care providers and a professional licensing attorney to determine if HPMP is right for them, or if other options would be a better fit for their specific situation.

I have been charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. How would a conviction affect my license?

A conviction for any felony leads to the mandatory suspension of any license and is a basis for additional discipline. A provider with a license suspended following a felony conviction may apply for reinstatement. A misdemeanor conviction is also a basis for discipline if the conviction involves a crime of “moral turpitude.” Moral turpitude means convictions related to lying, cheating, or stealing. Alcohol or drug-related convictions can also be a basis for an investigation into possible impairment. Mellette PC attorneys frequently coordinate with criminal defense attorneys to advise on the potential licensure ramifications of specific convictions or plea agreement.

I am licensed in states other than Virginia. What will happen to those licenses if I am investigated or disciplined in Virginia?

Every state is different. While some state health professional boards require prompt disclosure of any investigations, most states only require the disclosure of any disciplinary action taken in another state. Mellette PC attorneys work with attorneys in other states to coordinate an appropriate response for licensees with multiple state licenses.

My employer has accused me of unprofessional conduct and is threatening to report me to my licensing Board. What should I do?

Do not speak to hospital or facility staff or provide a written statement to anyone, including the police, without first consulting legal counsel. An attorney can help advise you on the next steps, such as guiding you through employer interviews and participating in your employer’s grievance process if available.

How can I proactively protect my license?

You should be familiar with the laws and regulations governing your practice. You can also read guidance documents relevant to each Board, which are all posted on the relevant Board website. On a regular basis, you should search for Board newsletters and new information posted on the website to stay abreast of regulatory changes and updates to your practice.

Is the Board’s final decision public?

All notices of proceedings and orders are public information under Virginia law. Notices and the resulting orders, which contain findings of fact and conclusions of law, will be published on the Department of Health Professions website. The evidence used during disciplinary proceedings is confidential and not available to the public. If your case was ultimately dismissed, the notice will remain public information. However, the agency will include a statement that you were subject to a proceeding that did not result in disciplinary action.

My license was suspended or revoked. Can I get it back?

There are statutory time limits for when a licensee can apply for reinstatement following revocation. This is dependent on the individual facts of your case. If your license was suspended, the Order suspending your license should indicate when you are eligible for reinstatement and the necessary steps.

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