Residents generally face the possibility of sanctions from at least two sources of authority. In addition to the hospital where you're completing your residency, you may also have to abide by the policies of an affiliated medical university. Disciplinary boards from either institution may have the power to fire you, possibly ending your medical career in the process.
Disciplinary boards overseeing medical residency programs generally wield a broad array of powers. Put frankly, these boards may hold your future in their collective hands. Ideally, the disciplinary board handling your case will dismiss allegations against you. The second-best outcome may be securing the most lenient punishment possible.
An attorney-advisor can prepare you for your interactions with a disciplinary board. Your advisor's duties may include explaining each possible outcome for your case. Those outcomes may generally include:
Emory University School of Medicine (EUSOM) provides a baseline for potential sanctions for medical residents. EUSOM lists sanctions from least to most serious and begins with Administrative Notice.
An Administrative Notice is “a remedial action by which a resident is temporarily relieved of clinical duties without pay for violation of university, institutional, or departmental policy pertaining to administrative matters.” An Administrative Notice may not be noted in your residency file, but it could.
Your residency program may issue an Administrative Notice if you lack certain credentials, including:
- An active medical license
- Proof of training in life support techniques
- Proof of a medical diploma
- Proof of all necessary medical certificates
Your residency program may allow you to resume your training once you've provided all necessary documentation.
A Verbal Warning
A verbal warning is among the most lenient punishments you can receive while in medical residency. You may receive a verbal warning for:
- A minor violation of rules or policies
- A first violation of rules or policies
Though such a warning may be verbal in nature, a written record of the warning may go in your resident file. The issuance of a verbal warning is a clear message: You're now aware of the rules, and a subsequent violation may garner more significant sanctions.
Though you always want to avoid a sanction in your student file, there are far more serious sanctions than a verbal warning. Though every circumstance is different, you may accept a verbal warning as a substitute for more serious consequences.
A Written Warning
A written warning is generally a step up in severity from a verbal warning. Also known as a Letter of Reprimand, a written warning still ranks within the more minor segment of sanctions. You may receive a written warning when you've committed a semi-serious infraction or you've committed a minor infraction more than once.
The message a written warning generally sends is: You're getting close to serious sanctions, and another infraction will likely have significant consequences. A written warning will almost certainly remain in your residency file.
Probation (Academic or Behavioral)
A residency program may resort to probation when you've failed to respond as intended to less serious forms of discipline. EUSOM places residents on probation when:
- They fail to display requisite academic progress within the residency's training curriculum
- They “experience a serious lapse in complying with the responsibilities of the program”
- They display serious misconduct
Probation is a serious measure. An order of probation may come from a Program Director, Associate Dean, Dean, or equivalent authority within your residency program. Probation will most likely go on your record.
Probation generally serves as a sort of last warning. If you do not abide by the conditions of your probation, you may face suspension or firing from your residency program.
Your residency program may reserve suspension for serious or repeat violations of rules or expectations. Truly the last measure before a resident faces dismissal, a suspension is a significant blemish on your record. Even if you overcome your suspension and resume your residency, the mark of a suspension on your reputation may present significant challenges.
Residency programs should, and generally do, take suspensions seriously. The choice to suspend a resident should never be hasty. You may go through a hearing process and other preliminary steps before receiving notice of a suspension.
A suspension generally:
- Results from a very serious infraction or chronic violations of rules or expectations
- Separates you from the residency program for a certain period of time
- Imposes expectations upon you that serves as conditions for your return to residency
- Puts you behind your peers in the training curriculum
- Is unpaid
Being suspended may cause psychological, financial, and physical harm. You may experience significant stress and negative emotions because of your suspension. You want to avoid a suspension if at all possible. Only dismissal from your residency program is more serious.
Also known as firing or termination, dismissal is the most serious sanction a resident can face. The most egregious rules violations may trigger your dismissal. Such violations may include culpability for:
- Sexual misconduct
- Physical violence
- Serious ethical misconduct
- Inappropriate behavior towards patients
- Repeated violations of rules
Dismissal from residency could mean the end of your medical career. The effects of dismissal may be devastating, extending throughout personal, professional, and financial aspects of your life.
You Deserve Due Process Before (and After) a Disciplinary Board Takes Action
Every resident deserves due process. The nature and extent of your due process may depend on your individual residency program's policies. Generally, though, you have the right to:
- Receive notice of allegations against you
- Contest allegations levied against you
- Admit guilt but provide context for your actions or failures
- Request leniency in the adjudication process
- Have an attorney-advisor counsel you
- Request an appeal
Appeals are especially important. If there was bias, misconduct, or insufficient evidence during the adjudication process, an appeal could lead to a new decision in your case. A qualified attorney-advisor will respond promptly and appropriately to every development in your case.
Hire Attorney Joseph D. Lento to Combat Any Allegations Against You
A medical residency issue can have a massive effect on your future. The only option if you're facing discipline is an effective defense. Hiring an attorney-advisor is the least you can do, considering that your future in medicine may be at stake.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm specialize in medical student and resident defense. We will make the most of your opportunities to defend yourself. If necessary, we may even negotiate directly with your program's Office of the General Counsel (OGC).
Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 for more details about how we will assist you. You can also submit your case details online.