Qualifying as an emergency medical technician (EMT) or a paramedic in San Diego County is a process requiring commitment, hard work, patience, and dedication, besides the financial and time investment. The education level you must attain, the on-job training, mental attentiveness, and physical fitness, among other requirements, are demanding, weeding out those that are not as motivated and cannot handle the task. Above all, the complicated, tiring, and costly process of acquiring your professional license in California is also a requirement before you can practice.
Despite this, losing your license is a lot easier than obtaining one. Multiple violations or allegations can be leveled against you that will cause the Emergency Medical Services Authority (EMSA) of California to take disciplinary action against you. Similarly, a local San Diego County EMS agency can also discipline you following allegations of a violation. Losing your license means risking your livelihood, and these allegations can cost you your license. Fortunately, you can fight for your license with a Professional license attorney from The Legal Guardian and continue working at your hard-earned career.
Important Roles of EMTs and Paramedics
No one can foretell a medical emergency. When an emergency occurs, the first persons to respond are typically the EMTs and paramedics. When traffic accidents occur on the roads, or a person becomes suddenly sick at home, emergency personnel is always called to the scene.
Unfortunately, despite their heroic deeds, they perform routinely, some people do not appreciate them. If you are an EMT or a paramedic, you might feel that you are not appreciated until something goes amiss. If, while performing your duties, something wrong happens, you will go from being the important person to a defendant when you are charged with a criminal offense that may result in your license revocation.
Whether you are administering a drug or performing a medical procedure, you must be careful in all the decisions you take. Even under difficult circumstances, the decisions you make are binding both ethically and legally despite it being held in the highest standard. As emergency personnel, you must quickly assess different situations with some being chaotic and take charge. Through the chaos, the decisions you make must be the best for the person's safety and life and others.
Additionally, you must make sure to document your actions as truthfully as possible. Paramedics and EMTs must also stay updated with the recent medical changes, procedures, and statutes affecting their functions or duties. Through all this, your life is at risk while you focus on saving other people's lives, and any oversight or mistake can destroy your career or threaten it.
The public is often confused about distinguishing EMTs from paramedics. Although they are all emergency personnel that works together to protect human life, their roles are distinctive. EMTs are trained solely to assist doctors and paramedics and are limited in their procedures based on their qualifications. This lack of understanding sometimes leads to them being accused of doing nothing, yet they did everything they could and were supposed to.
Paramedics can carry out invasive surgeries and often do. Simultaneously, EMTs are more focused on taking the patient's vitals, interrogating victims, assisting with emergency life support, and moving them to the emergency room. Additionally, EMTs report their findings and actions taken to the hospital employees so that they can take over where the EMTs left. EMTs also work as adjuncts on fire departments and local police departments.
If you are accused of a mistake that can cost you your career, you can fight against this possibility with the help of a licensed attorney. An experienced lawyer understands your sacrifice and would not judge you but instead will respect what you do. An accusation does not necessarily mean the end of your career; the law allows you to fight for yourself and discredit the allegations against you.
Should EMSA Discipline or Investigation Bring an End to your Career?
Over the years, multiple complaints have been raised against EMTs and paramedics in California. One reason for the recent increase in these complaints is the recently passed requirement for all EMTs to be subjected to FBI and DOJ criminal history checks. Further, future arrests must be reported to the nearest EMS agency.
Another reason for the increased complaints is in the job's nature as a paramedic or an EMT. However, the checks carried out on their backgrounds make it difficult to renew licenses or increase their revocation risk. About two-thirds of complaints relating to licenses against emergency personnel are based on criminal convictions or accusations.
The remaining third are related to drug or alcohol use violations, obtaining your current license fraudulently, performing deeds outside your area of expertise and authority, being dishonest, or carrying out fraudulent acts. Abuse or mistreatment of patients, sexual misconduct while at work, and failing to keep the patient's medical record private are also reasons that risk your professional license.
Besides the above, other common allegations you may face include:
- Gross negligence – Under this, you are accused if you are found to deviate from the acceptable standards of care that may endanger or cause harm to the patient. This involves you acting in a manner that a reasonable individual in your position would not.
- Incompetence – You can face incompetence allegations when the complainant states that you have no knowledge, skills, or abilities required in performing paramedics or EMT duties. This stems from your failing to show competence in your work or discovering you do not have the necessary academic background to be in the position.
When such allegations come against you when you believe in having done everything right and in the best possible manner, you can easily lose hope and decide to end the career and venture elsewhere. Unfortunately, this is the path taken by most emergency personnel, especially those faced with offenses such as DUI, while not at work or administrative hearing that can result in the revocation of their license.
Fortunately, you do not have to allow your career to end because of the problems you face with EMS or EMSA. First, having an investigation carried out does not mean disciplinary action will be passed against you. With an experienced license attorney, mitigating factors can be presented that favor you at the hearing. Additionally, your attorney can negotiate with the disciplinary body during or before the hearing to earn you a favorable deal.
Most license lawyers have defended other paramedics or EMTs that thought their careers had come to an end due to various allegations. Chances are your lawyer who has handled a similar case to the one you are facing and knows the best way to avoid harsh disciplinary action or any disciplinary action at all. Similarly, your attorney can negotiate to have you placed under probation, pay a fine, or receive a citation while protecting and preserving your license. Through your lawyer's intervention, the suspension for your practice can be shortened as well. All these are possible if they are the best probable outcomes in your case if a dismissal is unattainable.
Possible EMSA Disciplinary Actions
After a complaint against you has been presented to the EMSA, various disciplinary actions can be taken against you and your license following an administrative hearing. Despite this, their actions will not be taken blindly but will follow a procedure that accords you a chance to defend yourself against the allegations.
Although the EMSA issues practicing licenses to EMTs and paramedics, its other primary objective is to protect the public from abuse or mistreatment from paramedics and EMTs. This means they are never on your side when allegations are leveled against you, but on the alleged victim's side. For this reason, when you are notified of ongoing investigations against you due to a complaint received, you must find a licensed lawyer to begin preparing your case and defense.
After receiving the complaints against you, the EMSA does launch an investigation into the allegations and notify you of the same. Depending on the complaint, the investigations can be short or extended. The outcome of the investigations determines if an administrative hearing will be carried out or not. Ideally, your attorney works to discredit the evidence against you by presenting factors that favor you following formal accusations or before you are formally accused. In this case, the allegations can be dismissed, and a desirable conclusion reached to your advantage.
But, if an administrative hearing is convened, the least kind of disciplinary action that can be taken against you is a citation that is accompanied by a fine. This fine ranges between $250 to $2,500, and it depends on the type of offense and the circumstances of the case. After receiving this punishment, you must pay the fines by the sixtieth day after you have been notified of its issue.
Unfortunately, paying a fine can be difficult if you face financial challenges. In such a case, your lawyer can ask for the payment period to be extended to a year, but for the EMSA to grant your petition, your attorney must present evidence that you are facing financial hardships.
An important aspect to note is that penalties in the form of a fine or probation are the minimum forms of punishment and are only issued in instances where the alleged victim did not sustain bodily harm. Also, the EMSA cannot issue a fine and suspend your license simultaneously for one case. If the violation you are alleged to have committed resulted in injuring the alleged victim, you can expect harsh disciplinary action against you with supporting evidence.
If you received a citation as a punishment, the record of it becomes public. The EMSA puts it up on their website, and anyone can access or see it, including possible future employers. This taints your record, and often most potential employers will refuse to give you an opportunity because you are deemed a liability and even incompetent. Because of this, small violations must be challenged with your attorney's help to avoid the punishment that can taint your record.
The other level of punishment after citation or fine is probation. If your professional license is placed on probation, it means you are on probation as well. Probation typically comes with terms and conditions that the EMSA requires you to follow. If you violate any of the conditions outlined in it, you risk having your license revoked and ending your career prematurely. Your attorney will once again help you understand the probation terms and all other requirements in it.
Some terms in the probation can be harsh. However, your experienced lawyer can negotiate the terms on your behalf and have them more lenient. Equally, the probation period can be long, affecting your livelihood. In this case, your attorney can also negotiate to have the period shortened. If you are accused of violating probation terms, a hearing is constituted to determine the allegations.
If the investigations indicate that you violated the terms, the EMSA can issue tougher conditions, ask you to continue with the probation terms as they are, or revoke your license. Fortunately, you can also fight these allegations through the hearing convened to discuss the violations. Your lawyer can argue against the allegations and save your license from revocation.
Suppose the accusations against you involve abuse of drugs or alcohol. In that case, your lawyer can still fight against the revocation of your license as you enroll and complete an alcohol or drug program. Under this, your attorney can fight to earn your probation on your license instead of its revocation. Probation, in this case, can last between three and five years. Although this will mean you cannot work as a paramedic or an EMT during this period, it is still a better punishment than a complete cancellation of your license.
The last and most severe form of disciplinary action the EMSA can take against you is revocation or suspension of your license. This is common when you are accused of gross negligence or misconduct that resulted in the victim sustaining bodily harm. Despite the seriousness of the allegations against you, your attorney can still fight against the revocation or suspension and even the punishment period.
When your license is revoked, it means you can never work as a paramedic or EMT in California anymore. This will mean you start training for another career that takes time and maybe not what you would like to do. Your attorney can challenge the allegations against you and have the board not issue a revocation of your license.
On the other hand, a suspension means you cannot work as a paramedic or an EMT for a specified period. Although this is less harsh than a revocation, it is still a steep penalty, and your lawyer can fight to have the period shortened. You can also fight for the reinstatement of your revoked or suspended license. If the allegations against you were baseless and you can prove it, your lawyer can appeal against the board's decision and have your license reinstated.
What are the Recommended Guidelines by the EMSA?
The EMSA board publishes guidelines that help direct the administrative law judge (ALJ) that presides over administrative hearings following an allegation. This guide is known as the Recommended Guidelines for Disciplinary Orders and Conditions of Probation.
In the book, various offenses that can be committed by an EMT or paramedic according to California's HSC 1798.200 and they are clearly outlined. If you are found to have committed any of the offenses therein, it will result in a hearing that may mean disciplinary action is taken against your license. The book also lists various actions that the judge can impose for each violation.
The ALJ's role is to hear mitigating facts that may favor your case and move away from the recommended guidelines to reach a more settlement where both sides are agreeable. On the other hand, the guidelines are critical in telling you the disciplinary actions to expect, and they do not mean it is the exact punishment you will receive.
The EMSA, in its guidelines to the ALJ, recommend the following considerations:
- For the judge to consider the type and seriousness of the allegations
- Whether the alleged victim sustained hard due to the violations
- The possible harm the violation could have caused.
- Your history, whether you have had other violations in the past, the punishment received, and if your current violations are more than just one.
- If you have a criminal conviction in your history and when it happened and if you earned probation as a punishment, whether the conditions were followed.
- The judge should also consider mitigating factors in your case or aggravating ones.
- If the violations involve substance abuse, the judge will consider whether you have gone for rehab or not.
- Whether your current employer already took disciplinary actions against you. If so, the measures will be taken into consideration to reduce the penalties by the EMSA.
Find a San Diego County Professional License Attorney Near Me
After working hard to earn your paramedic license, it is unfortunate that you can lose it over a small mistake. Fortunately, you can defend your license with help from The Legal Guardian in San Diego County. Our lawyers understand the disciplinary system of the EMSA and will work to have the charges against you or disciplinary actions dismissed. If you or a colleague is faced with allegations and investigations by the EMSA, call us at 888-293-0396, and we will schedule an appointment to discuss the allegations in greater detail.
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