“Misconduct” is a term that no resident wants associated with their name. Every resident enters their program intending to abide by every rule. Whether through momentary indiscretions or false allegations, though, some residents find themselves as the target of misconduct claims.
If you're the subject of a misconduct allegation, then hiring an attorney-advisor may protect you from serious consequences.
Examples of Medical Residency Misconduct
Misconduct may generally refer to clear violations of best medical practices or residency program rules. Unlike poor performance, misconduct generally implies a conscious or wanton skirting of rules, ethical standards, or safety practices.
Your residency program may categorize the following as misconduct:
- Misrepresentation of your credentials or capabilities
- Fabrication or misrepresentation of data, patient information, or other residency-related details
- Mistreatment of patients, fellow residents, fellows, attending physicians, or others involved with your residency program
- Dangerous medical practices
- Providing treatments beyond the pale of accepted medical practices
- Plagiarism of residency-related work or ideas
- Sexual misconduct
- Physical violence
- Crude, rude, or otherwise distasteful commentary
- Substance abuse or misuse
The same types of misconduct that may trigger a dismissal from medical school may land you in trouble with your residency program.
What Are Possible Sanctions for Medical Residency Misconduct?
Emory University School of Medicine’s (EUSOM) misconduct policies make it clear: It may impose whatever sanctions it sees fit for alleged misconduct cases, “including immediate termination from the training program without first providing the resident lesser disciplinary actions.”
The spectrum of sanctions for residency program misconduct generally includes:
- A verbal or written warning
- A formal reprimand that resides in your student file
- Administrative Notice, which may put the resident on unpaid leave, giving them a defined period of time to correct deficiencies
- Suspension from the residency program
- Dismissal from the residency program (without or without the opportunity for reappointment)
Even the lightest possible sanction can set you apart from your peers—not in a good way. Once you've faced discipline from your residency program, you may be one indiscretion away from being fired.
What Are the Short- and Long-Term Effects of Sanctions for Misconduct?
The effect of your medical residency sanctions will depend on the severity of the sanctions. Any punishment beyond a verbal warning could do significant harm to your reputation. Something as serious as a suspension or dismissal may be difficult to overcome, both personally and professionally.
Let's examine the most serious sanction a resident can face: Dismissal. If you're dismissed from your residency program, then you may:
- Face the end of your medical career: Being dismissed when you've already completed so much of your medical training is absolutely gut-wrenching. Even if you are re-admitted to a residency program, financial and logistical challenges may prohibit you from continuing your medical training.
- Experience significant financial hardship: You may carry not only the financial cost of medical school but also residency-related fees and costs. For most, the cost of medical education and training reaches six figures. If you fail to complete your residency, you may face this financial burden without a high-value degree to help you pay your debts.
- Have to start another career-long after your competitors have begun theirs: If your firing from residency leads you to switch careers, you'll be starting well behind many of your competitors. You may have to work extremely hard to overcome your late start in a new profession.
- Face personal problems related to your dismissal: Residents are human beings who feel the full weight of disappointment. Leaving your residency program for any reason may trigger a negative emotional cycle and significant personal problems.
You don't have to be facing dismissal to benefit from an attorney-advisor's help. Even lesser sanctions—like a formal reprimand—can diminish you as a job candidate. Accreditation boards and prospective employers may require answers for misconduct-related sanctions during your residency.
The Lento Law Firm has assisted countless medical students and residents facing dismissal (or firing). We also represent those facing less serious consequences. Our team understands how stressful pending sanctions can be for a resident.
Our firm will lead your case from start to finish. Depending on the nature of your circumstances, we may contest the allegations against you or seek leniency for an admitted act of misconduct.
How Do Residency Programs Handle Allegations of Misconduct?
Emory University School of Medicine (EUSOM) provides a sample of how one residency program handles alleged misconduct. A designated disciplinary body conducts an internal review of alleged misconduct. The committee weighs available evidence, interviews involved parties then issues a ruling. There may be no hearing before the disciplinary body issues its decision.
Keep in mind: While this is a real-world example of how EUSOM handles residency misconduct issues, your residency program may follow different protocols.
A EUSOM student may appeal a ruling of termination. While other disciplinary actions may be appealable, an Administrative Notice is not. As another example, Baylor College of Medicine allows residents to appeal a number of “adverse decisions,” including some involving alleged misconduct.
We may also negotiate directly with your program's Office of the General Counsel (OGC). OGC negotiations may produce a suitable resolution to your case. This is just one of the options we'll consider when handling your case.
It's critical that you understand your school's specific policies on hearings, appeals, and due process. Knowing your residency program's disciplinary protocols is the first step towards an effective defense. Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team will conduct thorough research into these matters.
Hire an Attorney-Advisor for a Residency Misconduct Issue
Due process for medical residents has been a point of legal contention. Residents occupy something of a middle ground between student and employee. You require a defense by an attorney who knows the unique legal landscape you find yourself upon.
Don't forget this: A residency program will fire you if it finds due cause. Both anecdotal and peer-reviewed evidence show this to be true. Don't risk your future in medicine by failing to embrace legal help.
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and the Lento Law Firm make medical student and resident issues a point of emphasis. Attorney Lento and his team understand the rights of medical residents. They will provide a capable defense, exhausting all possible avenues to find a positive case outcome.