Any regulated health care provider in Virginia is required to hold a license, certification, or registration issued by one of the 14 individual health regulatory boards within the Virginia Department of Health Professions. In addition to issuing professional licensees, the Boards within the Department of Health Professions are responsible for establishing professional practice standards, investigating alleged violations of those standards, and pursuing disciplinary action against licensed health care providers for such violations.
Allegations of misconduct can originate from a variety of sources, including patients, employers, employees, law enforcement agencies, courts, and other state and federal regulatory agencies. Each board has wide discretion to discipline a licensee based on substandard quality of care, practicing beyond the scope of licensure, diversion of prescription drugs, inappropriate prescribing, inadequate documentation, unprofessional conduct, certain criminal convictions, and adverse licensure action in another jurisdiction. Findings of violations can result in a range of public sanctions including reprimand, probation, suspension, or revocation of a license.
A complaint against any health care provider sparks many concerns. Public disciplinary action results in the publishing of personal details of allegations on the Board’s website and licensure verification sites, and may result in reports to the National Practitioner Data Bank. Public disciplinary action remains visible throughout a provider’s career, requiring disclosure and review during future efforts to obtain privileges or credentials with other health care entities or payors, or licenses in other states. Some types of factual findings in public disciplinary orders can prevent health care providers from ever working again in certain employment settings. Our attorneys provide years of experience and expertise in counseling health care providers through licensure disciplinary matters and resulting complications.
The attorneys at Mellette PC understand the distress and alarm that follows when a health care professional receives a complaint against their license. Receipt of a complaint does not mean that the licensee has done anything wrong, but it does mean there will be a thorough investigation. Involvement of an attorney does not imply guilt, but does help ensure that the complaint is addressed professionally, completely, and in a manner that places the practitioner in the best light. Throughout an investigation, Mellette PC attorneys seek to understand our client’s position, accurately present information, and assert defenses. Should allegations require informal or formal administrative proceedings, our attorneys develop evidence and legal arguments, prepare witness testimony, and assist clients in presenting themselves effectively in response to questions from the regulatory Board. We seek to develop an effective and efficient approach for each client that provides peace of mind and assistance throughout the entire investigation and any disciplinary proceedings.
Below are responses to several frequently asked questions that help explain the investigation and administrative proceedings process:
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of practitioners do you represent?
We represent all types of health professionals. Virginia has 14 professional health regulatory boards: Board of Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology, Board of Counseling, Board of Dentistry, Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, Board of Health Professions, Board of Long-Term Care Administrators, Board of Medicine, Board of Nursing, Board of Optometry, Board of Pharmacy, Board of Physical Therapy, Board of Psychology, Board of Social Work, and the Board of Veterinary Medicine.
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.
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The Virginia Department of Health Professions includes the following 14 individual health regulatory boards:
Virginia Board of Medicine
Virginia Board of Nursing
Virginia Board of Dentistry
Virginia Board of Optometry
Virginia Board of Counseling
Virginia Board of Psychology
Virginia Board of Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology
Virginia Board of Long-Term Care Administrators
Virginia Board of Pharmacy
Virginia Board of Physical Therapy
Virginia Board of Social Work
Virginia Board of Funeral Directors & Embalmers
Virginia Board of Veterinary Medicine
Virginia Board of Health Professions