If you're a medical resident, you should be congratulated. It's not easy getting to where you are. You've had to complete four years of college plus another four years of medical school. You've sweated and toiled, sacrificed, and persevered. You still have somewhere between three and seven years to go, but every day you move one step closer to your goal of becoming a fully-licensed doctor.
If there's a downside to all this success, it's that you have a lot on the line. A mistake at this point means all that time, hard work, and money will have been wasted. It's more important than ever to avoid making mistakes, then. The fact is, though, we all make them, even medical residents. If your program is taking some action against you for some mistake you've made, there's too much on the line to just wait and see what happens. There's too much on the line to try and handle the situation by yourself. You need an advisor, someone who knows the law and who understands how residency programs work. Joseph D. Lento can help.
You might be wondering, what could go so wrong during your residency that you would need an attorney? You might be surprised. Doctors, in general, are held to incredibly high standards, and residency programs are anxious to make sure you understand those expectations now.
You can expect to be evaluated in two distinct areas. First, of course, you need to demonstrate your abilities as a physician. That means meeting competencies in the six categories defined by the Accreditation Council for Medical Education (ACGME).
- Patient Care: Medicine is a collaborative practice between physicians and patients. It's important you develop skills in listening and effective communication as well as a strong sense of empathy.
- Medical Knowledge: Obviously, what you know about medicine is the foundation of your practice. You need theoretical expertise in the human body and its systems but also a practical knowledge base of treatment options.
- Practice-based Learning and Improvement: As a physician, you must remain a life-long learner. That means developing skills in research, knowledge acquisition, and self-evaluation.
- Interpersonal and Communication Skills: Again, you must have effective communication skills, not just for dealing with patients but for working with all the many stakeholders in the field of medicine, from nurses to hospital administrators.
- Professionalism: Your practice must be grounded in ethics and a sense of responsibility to your community.
- Systems-based Practice: Medicine happens within systems—hospital routines, federal and state laws, and insurance protocols. During your residency, you learn how to work within these various systems and how to manage your responsibilities to each of them.
Ethical, Professional, and Personal Behavior
Your residency program's medical standards are high. Your program's professional and ethical standards are likely higher. Being a doctor means holding a position of public trust. If you can't manage your personal life, the thinking goes, you can't expect your patients to trust your abilities as a healer.
As a result, you'll find that, while your program may be willing to overlook your medical mistakes, they'll probably dismiss you if you should get a DUI or be arrested for domestic violence.
Ethics and morality are complex subjects. You had whole courses on them in medical school, and we couldn't hope to cover all the many aspects of them here. However, 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
If you're accused of making a mistake, you'll likely be called before your hospital's disciplinary board. This board not only sets hospital rules and policies but evaluates every resident's progress and handles all allegations of misconduct. As the name suggests, this body has the power to “discipline” you for both competency and professional failings. Punishments can include anything from warnings, to reductions in pay, to outright dismissal from the program.
Obviously, dismissal is the most serious of these sanctions since it almost certainly means the end of your career. That doesn't mean you can ignore minor sanctions, though. Any sanction, even a written warning, can have long-term repercussions on your medical career. You should know, for example, that you must disclose all disciplinary actions when you go before the Nebraska medical board to apply for your license.
You don't have to face your hospital's disciplinary board alone, though. Most residency programs recognize just how much is on the line for their residents, and they don't initiate proceedings lightly. In addition, most allow you to be represented by counsel, particularly if you are facing dismissal.
Even if your attorney can't accompany you to meetings and hearings, though, they're essential to a successful defense. An attorney who is well-versed in residency programs can help you map out a strategy, draft official documents for you, even give you practice in presenting your case.
How Can Joseph D. Lento Help
No one said becoming a doctor was easy. You've reached an important milestone on your path to becoming a medical professional, but you're not there yet. Don't let a mistake, or worse, an unfair accusation, derail your career. If you've been called before your hospital's disciplinary board, get help defending yourself.
Joseph D. Lento is a defense attorney who specializes in medical student and resident cases. 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.