For medical students who land a spot in a residency program, it's a landmark event. It's also a career phase where they move from an academic setting to a clinical one where residents will interact with practicing doctors and actual patients.
While doctors on television get up to lots of things that might not happen in real life, the brutal schedules involved in a medical residency are not fictional. The long hours and sleep deprivation can lead to mistakes. While most vocations leave room for infractions, oversight of doctors may well be the most stringent of all professions.
A misstep by a medical resident can mean the end of a career that has been years in the making because the disciplinary process can leave a permanent stain on a record or even result in outright dismissal.
Dismissal From a Residency Program in Arizona
Being a medical resident puts a person in a unique, dual role, as both a student and an employee.
So, while they must heed all rules that apply to all staff at the hospital or medical facility, they also have rights under the student code of conduct. If you are a medical resident looking at the business end of a disciplinary action, you should know that one of those rights allows you to hire an attorney-advisor to defend you.
It can happen to a resident of a tender age or one who is nearing the end of a program, but typically the stakes—and the oversight—get more intense as a resident progresses. Everything is scrutinized, including both professional and personal conduct, competency, and compliance with relevant regulations.
How Ethics Impact Disciplinary Actions
The trust between doctor and patient is close to sacred. Training programs' reputational foundations are built on their commitment to their methods of teaching professional and personal standards of conduct to their residents.
The American Medical Association (AMA) has been vocal and explicit in this area, developing a national codification of medical ethics to improve and uphold public health and a standard of care.
Among others, they identify the following as examples of violations of ethical and professional standards:
- Inappropriate procurement of pharmaceuticals from a health care facility
- Engaging in social media activity unbefitting to the profession
- Involvement in bribery or kickback schemes
- Being inattentive to a conflict of interest in patient care decisions
- Being a subject of allegations of sexual misconduct or discrimination against colleagues or patients on the basis of race, sexual identity/orientation, religion, or national origin
- Being under the influence of a controlled substance or engaging in substance misuse while at work
- Being consistently unable to manage the stresses of the practice of medicine, especially in circumstances where it leads to medical errors or complaints from co-workers
Any violation of the AMA code can result in a reprimand, sanctions, or dismissal from a program. All can severely impact on resident's professional and personal future.
How Competency Impacts the Disciplinary Process
The Accreditation Council for Medical Education (ACGME) has also made its voice heard on ethics and competency in six significant areas:
- Professionalism. Residents must remain in compliance with ethical principles and be considerate of the needs of the broad range of individuals they come into contact with. Non-adherence can result in suspension or dismissal.
- Medical knowledge. More than theoretical, this means developing an understanding of how classroom learning converts to actual patient care.
- Patient care. This is, of course, central. The hallmarks of the care residents provide must include compassion, high-quality medical attention, and effective treatment of the health issues they are presented with.
- Practice-based learning and improvement. Residents must engage in a continual feedback loop on personal performance. Successful residents must engage in ongoing efforts to improve proficiency and expand skills.
- Interpersonal and communication skills. Medical knowledge is not enough in itself. Physicians need to be able to effectively convey this knowledge—and the ways it impacts the patient—to the patient and their family, as well as to other staff providing care at the facility.
- Systems-based practice. State and national healthcare systems are complicated and under pressure. Residents must establish and sustain knowledge of the ways these systems impact the way healthcare is delivered and how patients are affected.
Every medical teaching institution has a disciplinary board to enforce its policies and code of conduct. These bodies hold much sway over a resident's future as a physician. While less egregious violations may only result in a written reprimand or probation, they still result in a record that can follow a resident through the rest of their career.
Serious breaches can lead to suspension and even dismissal.
It's essential for residents to learn and understand the policies and disciplinary procedures at their teaching hospitals. They must also know their rights under these procedures. Many residents facing a disciplinary action incorrectly assume they must appear on their own before the board. Not only is this not the case, but appearing on their own can result in a negative outcome with long-term consequences.
How Joseph D. Lento, Attorney-Advisor, Gets Results for Medical Residents
Whether you are a first-year intern, or the finish line is in sight—completing your program with a clean record is one of the most important milestones in your career.
Even with constant vigilance and the best of intentions, residents can and do make mistakes. In those cases, retaining a skilled advisor can help you present the best possible scenario to a disciplinary board.
Attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team have advised hundreds of medical residents facing sanctions all over the country. He understands how disciplinary boards think and operate. He works effectively with hospital general counsel and board with the goal of achieving an outcome that satisfies everyone involved.
Don't let your medical career get cut short because of a simple mistake. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 or send a message through the online portal to learn more.