If you've made it this far in your medical career, you already know: doctors are held to incredibly high standards. And it's not just that you need to be an expert at diagnosing and treating human frailties and illnesses. Your ethical and professional conduct must be absolutely above reproach. Even your personal life is fair game.
Of course, we all make mistakes, even doctors. A mistake shouldn't cost you your career.
You've come a long way. You've made it through your undergraduate education; you've made it through med school. The stakes are higher than ever: if you should fail now, all those years of hard work, all the time and money you've invested, will have been for nothing. If you're called before your hospital's disciplinary board you can't afford to try and handle it yourself. You need help from a professional, and you need it now.
Competency is the watchword for all medical residents. You learned a lot in medical school, but now you're expected to master it and to demonstrate that mastery over and over again.
How do you do that? How do you prove your competency as a medical professional? The Accreditation Council for Medical Education (ACGME) requires you to meet standards in six separate areas.
- Patient Care: You're expected to be able to work with your patients to solve their medical problems. That means you must be able to establish a foundational level of trust with them. You must respect every patient as an individual, and you must know how to listen.
- Medical Knowledge: You must have a theoretical understanding of the human body, but you must also know how to apply that understanding through practical treatment.
- Practice-based Learning and Improvement: As a doctor, you're expected to stay up-to-date on every advancement in your field. One of the most important skills you must learn, then, is how to learn. That means developing strategies for finding information, mastering information, and self-evaluation.
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills: You must be able to communicate effectively with patients and with colleagues.
- Professionalism: Your behaviors as a medical professional must all be grounded in ethics and an understanding of your responsibility to care for others.
- Systems-based Practice: If you are to be effective, you must also know how to work within the systems of medicine: what national and local laws govern your field, how the West Virginia medical system operates, how your own individual hospital works.
Most teaching hospitals understand that you are still learning. They don't expect you to achieve competency in all six of these areas in the first week or even the first year. There are exceptions, though. If your hospital expects too much from you, you have the right to defend yourself, both as a learner, and as a person.
Ethical, Professional, and Personal Behavior
Med students and residents are sometimes surprised to find that the standards for their professional and personal behavior can be higher than those for their medical competence. Being a doctor, though, means holding a position of public trust. If you can't manage your personal life, your patients can't trust your credentials as a healer.
The American Medical Association has established a national code of medical ethics to help doctors better understand their professional obligations. Of course, medical ethics is complex subject, and you've probably had whole courses in learning how to apply it in your career. Violations of this code, though, might include things like
- Sharing confidential patient information
- Practicing medicine despite a conflict of interest
- Failing to manage stress, leading to poor communication or medical mistakes
- Discriminating against others
- Accepting bribes
- Stealing medications
- Misusing social media
- Receiving a DUI or being convicted of physical assault
- Committing sexual misconduct
- Drinking on the job
Your residency program is probably willing to work with you to meet your six core competencies. On the other hand, it likely has little patience for ethical or professional misconduct. Violating your ethical responsibilities will almost always leave you subject to dismissal.
Facing the Disciplinary Board
Your hospital likely has its own disciplinary board. In addition to meeting competencies and demonstrating professionalism, you'll be expected to follow the mandates of this body. In addition, the board is responsible for investigating, adjudicating, and punishing mistakes.
Sanctions can include anything from written warnings, to reductions in pay, to complete dismissal from the program. Obviously, dismissal is the most serious of these, since it likely means the end of your career. It's important you recognize, though, that even minor sanctions can have lasting, long-term effects on you medical career. When it is time to go before the West Virginia medical board to apply for your license, you must disclose any disciplinary actions from your residency. Probation or a temporary suspension from your program could prevent you from obtaining that license.
Many residents assume they must face their hospital disciplinary board alone. That's not true. You may be able to bring an advisor with you, and you may even be able to select an advisor who is an attorney. Even if an attorney can't accompany you to meetings and proceedings, though, they can offer invaluable advice on preparing your case. They can suggest strategies, help you draft documents, even give you practice in responding to questions.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
If becoming a doctor was easy, everyone would do it. The demands on you are intense. Medical residents are sometimes asked to work eighty hours a week or more. Those kinds of conditions almost necessarily lead to mistakes. A good hospital recognizes that mistakes are part of the process, that one of the most important things you're learning is how to deal with stress and still do your job. If yours doesn't understand this, it's important you stand up for yourself.
Joseph D. Lento can help. Joseph D. Lento is a fully-qualified, licensed defense attorney with extensive experience defending medical students and residents. He has helped hundreds of residents handle 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.