The California Physician Assistant Board (PAB) licenses over one thousand Physician Assistants (PAs) throughout the State of California. While most PAs have no or minimal contact with the enforcement unit of the Physician Assistant Board, there are some who find themselves in very hot water.
For those that are facing the board’s license disciplinary process, the repercussions can be harsh. The disciplinary process is complex, procedural, and time-consuming. Therefore, any PA facing this process is strongly encouraged to seek legal advice and representation from a skilled Long Beach physician assistant license defense lawyer.
At The Legal Guardian, we understand just how complex defending a Physician Assistant license is. Whether your licensing issue arises from an ethics complaint, an allegation brought forth by the board, or a criminal offense, we can help you to protect your license anywhere in California.
In this article, we will look at what could lead to disciplinary action against a PA, the disciplinary actions they are subject to, and what they can do to avoid these punishments.
What Does a Physician Assistant Do?
A PA is a licensed, highly skilled healthcare professional trained to deliver patient education, health care services, and evaluation. They work closely with medical doctors in providing patients with high-quality care in hospitals, home settings, and extended care amenities. The California Department of Consumer Affairs’ Medical Board of California allows licensed PAs to carry out several similar duties as a doctor, including:
- Ordering diagnostic tests
- Taking patients’ information and health history
- Performing physical examinations of the patients
- Performing routine diagnostic testing
- Treating patients’ health condition
- Making medical diagnoses
- Managing patients’ ongoing care
- Administering injections
- Performing minor surgeries
- Instructing and counseling the patient
- Acting as first or second assistants during a surgical procedure
- Responding to life-threatening emergencies
- Providing preventive health measures
- Ordering laboratory and x-ray results
To be a PA, you must have attended a specialized medical training program associated with a medical school, which includes clinical and clinical experience and classroom studies. An academic certificate or degree will be awarded at the time of graduation. Most training programs for PAs require one to have prior experience in health care.
The Role of the Physician Assistant Board
The Physician Assistant Board performs several roles, which include:
- Licensing and disciplining Physician Assistants
- Making recommendations concerning the scope of practice of PAs
- Protecting consumers
- Providing information regarding PA to the health care community
Disciplining Physician Assistants
The PAB takes accusations of misconduct against Physician Assistants very seriously. As we mentioned before, you need a knowledgeable and respected PA license defense attorney to protect your rights and your license.
The PAB regulates and monitors Physician Assistants and it is their established enforcement/complaint arm that investigates the reported & alleged administrative and criminal violations. A disciplinary action or investigation by the PAB can threaten your career and practicing license as a Physician Assistant. During investigations, an experienced PA license defense lawyer can help you by responding to the questions from the board. This response could be in person, during an investigative interview, or in writing. An experienced attorney giving a convincing response may lead to the board’s complaint arm closing their investigations without formally accusing you. The emotional and financial cost of being formally accused can overwhelm you. It can also tarnish your career because the accusations and charges of violation of the PA code of conduct are publicly accessible since the board posts disciplinary actions to their website and also publishes them in their quarterly newsletter. The disciplinary actions can also be accessed via the online lookup system. Even if those allegations come to be disproven in the future, the damaging effect may remain.
Possible Disciplinary Measures from the California Physician Assistant Board
If you are found have engaged in misconduct as a physician assistant, the disciplinary actions you may face include:
- A citation without or with a fine
- An investigation without or with a letter mentioning that the issue has been closed, but it will remain in the files for up to three years—formal discipline not considered
- An allegation brought by the PAB. This is a legal filing that’ll be publicized through the board’s website
- License probation—this is a period whereby your license faces certain restrictions that the board imposes. You will be permitted to go on practicing your profession, but with a conditional practicing license. At the same time, you will be subject to other restrictions the board orders
- A public reproval or reprimand—this is a kind of discipline the board issues for infractions. Generally, reprovals don’t restrict your license
- License revocation—you won’t be capable of practicing your profession at all. In cases where the PA license is revoked, you can petition to have it reinstated after a given period.
Investigations into PAs Misconduct
Most investigations by the PAB start with a consumer filing a complaint. However, the investigations can also occur via a criminal conviction referral, criminal investigations, and sting operations. The PAB uses non-sworn civilian investigators to carry out non-criminal investigations. On the other hand, the California Consumer Affairs Department hires sworn police investigators to carry out criminal investigations on PAs. The police investigators investigate administrative and criminal law violations. The criminal law violation investigative process differs significantly from the one for Administrative law violation. You should have a lawyer who understands all of these processes. When the board has completed its investigations, it has numerous options. It can opt to dismiss the complaint or issue you with a citation. Alternatively, the board may also select to escalate the issue to the office of the Attorney General of California. The office of the Attorney General will establish whether there is cause to file an official disciplinary accusation. For cases involving criminal behavior, the board might refer the matter to the District Attorney’s office for you to be criminally prosecuted. An official Accusation served against you acts as notice that the POB means to revoke your license. When an official Accusation is issued, you will have only fifteen days from when you were served to bring a Notice of Defense. Note that the fifteen days are counted from when you were served and not when you received the Accusation. Failing to file this notice leads to default against you. A default, in turn, will lead to an instant revocation of your license, meaning you won’t continue practicing your profession. A formal Accusation is quite a severe matter that could lead to your license revocation or suspension. In most cases, you can settle with the Attorney General’s office and the PAB by reaching an agreement. If you can’t reach an agreement with these two parties, they’ll proceed to an official hearing at the California OAH (Office of Administrative Hearings).
If you are facing any accusation by the PAB, you should reach out to a skilled PA license defense lawyer for legal representation. Common misconduct that can lead to a formal Accusation being filed against you and later resulting in disciplinary actions include:
- Practicing medicine with no supervision from a physician/doctor
- Engaging in sexual misconduct with patients
- Aiding & abetting unlicensed practicing of medicine
- Renting a physician license
- Deceptive advertising
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Administration of drugs to addicts
- Failing to keep adequate records
- Negligent acts
- Exceeding the extent of your practice
- Altering medical records
- Using the title ‘doctor.’
- Representing yourself illegally as a doctor
- Supplying drugs to addicts
- Gross negligence
- Unlawful cancer treatment
- Signing or making false documents
- Treating patients when under the influence
The Hearing & Appealing
We have two hearing processes: the administrative law hearing and the criminal law hearing processes. Let’s look at how each of them works.
Administrative Law Hearing
The OAH maintains multiple court hearing localities. These courts are located in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Sacramento. In other cases, hearings can be conducted offsite in Fresno, Bakersfield, Riverside, Orange County, San Jose, San Bernardino, Ventura, or San Francisco. The administrative hearing is an official hearing presided over by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ).
The ALJ issues a written Proposed Decision about thirty days after your hearing. The PAB can adopt, reject, or modify the judge’s decision. The board’s action is referred to as the Final Decision & Order. We have two major rights of appealing the Final Decision & Order. The law allows you to bring a petition seeking for the judge to reconsider the revocation before the actual date the Final Decision & Order is issued (Government Code 11521). You can also bring a Writ of Mandate petition before the Superior Court of California (Code of Civil Procedure1094.5). A Writ has to be brought within thirty days from the actual date the Final Decision &Order was issued. If you are facing a PAB administrative hearing, you need effective legal representation from an experienced PA license defense attorney. Criminal Law Hearing as we mentioned earlier, the PAB can also discipline you for being convicted for criminal conduct. The board’s discipline happens for criminal offense convictions that significantly relate to your practice’s functions, qualifications, and duties.
Common crimes that could lead to PA license discipline include:
- Simple possession of a controlled substance
- Forging or altering a prescription
- Drug possession for sale
- Elder abuse
- False imprisonment
- Child endangerment
- Child abuse
- Domestic violence
- Fraud (mortgage fraud, insurance fraud, and Medicare fraud, real estate fraud)
- Identity theft
- Brandishing a firearm
- Hit & run
- Public intoxication
- Sex offenses
- Carrying a concealed weapon
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Diverting a controlled substance
- Assault with a deadly weapon
The PAB and other law enforcement bodies also probe your criminal behavior in the scope and course of your practice. Criminal investigations often involve the Physician Assistants who have engaged in practicing medicine illegally, prescription medication fraud, and illegally representing themselves as a doctor or physician. In severe criminal conduct where the case against you is pending in court, the PAB and the Attorney General’s office might seek a PC 23 Order upon you. A PC 23 order intends to suspend your license in the criminal court. Suppose you are facing any criminal charge or have been convicted of any criminal offense before. In that case, you need an expert PA license defense lawyer to represent you during the disciplinary hearing.
Having a lawyer by your side will increase your chances of winning and get to retain your license.
License Denial and Statement of Issues Hearing
The PAB investigates all the applicants for PA licenses thoroughly. The board may deny the license to PA students and PAs from other countries and states. Most license denials happen because of criminal convictions, misstatements, or financial problems on the applicant. Additional reasons that may lead to a license denial include Improper behavior in a training program, which leads to reportable adverse actions
- Proof of chemical dependency, mental health problems, or substance abuse
- Past history of addiction treatment or discipline with a separate licensing board or any other California licensing agency
If you have a previous problem that you need to reveal on a physician assistant disclosure, renewal, or application form, ensure you do it carefully and truthfully. We know the tools the board uses to fact check your renewal or application form for accuracy and honesty, and to detect adverse occurrences. We also understand the rules and regulations for what needs to be disclosed and what mustn’t be disclosed. In case an explanation is necessary, we can help you with important messaging and strategic considerations to lower the danger of discipline or denial as a result of the disclosure. Accusation Hearings and Statement of Issues Hearings at the OAH maintain the same procedure. However, when it comes to a Statement of Issues Hearing, an applicant will bear the burden of proof. If you receive a letter from the PA denying your application for a PA license, you should contact an attorney to represent you in a PAB Statement of Issues Hearing. The hearing has to be requested within sixty days from the date the letter was issued. The letter might contain other options too. Your lawyer will review it and take the necessary action before the deadline passes. License Reinstatement A Petition to reinstate allows you to regain your license if it had been revoked before. The petition has to indicate clear, convincing proof of the legal and factual reasons to justify the license restoration. Rehabilitation from previous misconduct is one of the primary factors in a petition that can warrant a license recovery before the PAB. A successful petition to reinstate a license needs representation from a competent PA license defense lawyer. PA License Defense Strategy at The Legal Guardian, we assess the ideal course of action for your case by examining the circumstance surrounding it and taking an understanding, proactive approach. As skilled Physical Assistant license defense lawyers, we represent Physical Assistants at all stages of the disciplinary process. This includes the investigative process, subpoena issuance, licensure application, licensure denial, after the Statement of Issues filing, after the investigation kicks off, after a formal Accusation against you has been filed, and in case of contested hearings in the OAH. Also, we help physician assistants with their petitions to reinstate their licenses that have been revoked or surrendered. Our pride is in building a comprehensive defense strategy that will save a physician assistant license from being revoked.
Based on the physician assistant circumstances, the legal defenses that we argue may include:
- Hiring appropriate experts to testify or give their opinion regarding the problems at hand
- Requesting to meet the investigator of the board or the Deputy Attorney General and present proof to either disprove the claim that misconduct happened or mitigate the disciplinary actions imposed on you
- Hiring our independent investigator so they can interview witnesses, secure computer data, issue subpoenas for relevant records, and evaluate the evidence or scene
- Creating a rehabilitation strategy if it’s chemical dependency at issue.
The rehabilitation strategy could include chemical testing and a psychological assessment to dismiss chemical dependency. Alternatively, if necessary, we will recommend professional counseling that will help address any drug abuse problems, which, in turn, may mitigate accusations with the PAB. In 2008, California lawmakers ended the board’s diversion program because it did not adequately safeguard the public.
- Helping you to prepare for a hearing before the OAH or collecting the required mitigation documents that can back a rehabilitation plan
- Creating an emotional and mental rehabilitation strategy.
At times we suffer tragic losses, situational depression, domestic violence cases, or even immense stress. If you are dealing with any of these issues, then you don’t need to be disciplined by the board. What you need is a recommendation or referral to see a skilled therapist where you can grieve, understand your emotional state better, and develop a plan to recover and maintain your emotional health.
Find a Skilled Physician Assistant License Defense Attorney Near Me
At The Legal Guardian, we aggressively represent physician assistants throughout the south bay area and across California in investigations, license applications, denials, disclosures, accusations, reinstatements, appeals, and other related legal issues. Our strategy towards helping our clients is quite simple: prevent more problems, defend the client if facing accusations, and fight unjust allegations. Our experienced, focused, dedicated license and regulatory practice give you the upper hand. Contact us at 866-448-6811 for a quick, thoughtful, and thorough discussion on your legal matter with one of our Long Beach professional license defense lawyers.