Medical Doctors are among the most respected professionals in our society. There's another side to that fact, though: Doctors are also held to almost ridiculously high standards. It isn't just that we expect physicians to be near magicians when it comes to healing. We also expect them to maintain the highest ethical and professional standards. In fact, we're not above scrutinizing their personal lives.
All these expectations begin in residency. The hospital where you work likely has a disciplinary board that holds you accountable for everything from DUIs to sloppy paperwork. Most disciplinary boards recognize that you are still learning and that a big part of the learning process is making mistakes. There are cases, though, where residents are held to standards that are just too high. Residents can wind up accused of things they didn't do or given sanctions far out of proportion to their offenses.
If you're dealing with a situation like this, you don't have to simply accept the end of your career. Find out everything you can about how your program disciplines its residents. Then, contact an attorney who can serve as your advisor. You can fight for your reputation, but taking on hospital administration is no easy matter, and you're going to need help doing it.
Your first responsibility as a resident is to develop your competency as a physician. You learned all the basic principles of medicine in medical school, but now you are expected to put those principles to use and to demonstrate mastery of them while doing it.
Specifically, your disciplinary board will hold you accountable for the six standards set by the Accreditation Council for Medical Education (ACGME).
- Patient Care: Caring for patients begins with establishing trust. You must respect your patients, and you must listen to them. They should be partners in helping you identify and solve their medical issues.
- Medical Knowledge: Medical knowledge has to do with what you know about the human body, but it also means having a practical understanding of how to treat the body.
- Practice-based Learning and Improvement: Your education will be on-going throughout your career. It's important you demonstrate now that you know how to find information, teach yourself, and evaluate your understanding.
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Of course, you must be skilled at dealing with patients. In addition, though, you must be able to communicate with your colleagues throughout all levels of the medical community.
- Professionalism: All of your behaviors as a doctor must be firmly grounded in ethics and an understanding of your fundamental responsibility to care for others.
- Systems-based Practice: The practice of medicine doesn't occur in a vacuum. You need to understand that doctors work within a larger medical care system that includes national, state, and local networks.
Ethical, Professional, and Personal Behavior
Your residency program's medical standards are high, but you might be surprised to learn that its professional and ethical standards are actually higher. Being a doctor means holding a position of public trust. If you can't manage your personal life, you can't expect your patients to trust your abilities as a healer.
As a result, you'll likely find that, while your program may be willing to overlook your medical mistakes, they'll dismiss you for lapses in your personal life like a DUI or a domestic violence conviction.
Ethics and morality, of course, are complex subjects, but the American Medical Association has established a national code of medical ethics to help doctors better understand their personal and professional obligations. The AMA's list of potential code violations includes things like
- Practicing medicine despite a conflict of interest
- Sharing confidential patient information
- Failing to manage stress, leading to poor communication or medical mistakes
- Accepting bribes
- Discriminating against others
- Misusing social media
- Drinking on the job
- Stealing medications
- Receiving a DUI or being convicted of physical assault
- Committing sexual misconduct
Facing the Disciplinary Board
The disciplinary board serves an important function at your hospital. For example, it sets hospital rules and policies. In addition, it evaluates every resident's progress and investigates and adjudicates any accusations of misconduct.
Typically, this body has the authority to sanction you for any mistakes or misbehavior. Sanctions can range anywhere from written warnings, to reductions in pay, to complete dismissal from the program.
Obviously, dismissal is the most serious of these sanctions, since it almost certainly means the end of your career. You should recognize, though, that even minor sanctions can have lasting, long-term effects on your medical career. For instance, you must disclose all disciplinary actions from your residency when you go before the Maine medical board to apply for your license. Probation or a temporary suspension from your program could easily keep you from getting that license.
Often, residents assume they must face their hospital disciplinary board alone. That's not true. Teaching hospitals recognize what's at stake for their residents, and most will allow you to be represented by counsel during any official proceedings against you.
In fact, even if your attorney can't accompany you to meetings and hearings, they can offer invaluable advice on preparing your case. They can suggest strategies, help you draft documents, and even give you practice in responding to questions.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
If becoming a doctor was easy, everyone would do it. You face intense demands as a resident. Many residents are regularly asked to work eighty or more hours a week. Those kinds of conditions are bound to lead to mistakes. Indeed, one of the most important lessons you can learn during these years is how to cope with and recover from your mistakes.
You shouldn't have to lose your career over one lapse in judgment, though. If you're facing dismissal, contact Joseph D. Lento to find out how he can help.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in defending medical students and residents. Over the years, he's dealt with all types of charges, from accusations of negligence to allegations of sexual misconduct. Joseph D. Lento knows the law and how it applies to medical residents. He also knows how hospitals function. He'll protect your rights and make sure you get the very best possible resolution to your case.
If you've been called before your disciplinary board, don't wait. The board is already preparing its case. You should be too. Contact the Lento Law Firm, today, at 888-555-3686, or use our automated online form.