Respiratory issues could be devastating, and patients with challenges in breathing might feel vulnerable and helpless. Your work as a respiratory therapist assists in reducing the anxiety the condition causes. You've spent years building your career, but one complaint can negatively affect your future and livelihood. In Long Beach, respiratory therapists are regulated by the Respiratory Care Board of California. Should the complaint against you have merit, you might face disciplinary actions like license suspension. With so much at stake, it is wise to speak with a license defense attorney. At The Legal Guardian, we have the skills and experience you require to defend your professional license.

Duties Performed by Respiratory Care Practitioners

Also known as respiratory therapists, respiratory care practitioners offer essential life support and lifesaving prescribed procedures that affect major body organs. Respiratory care provides relief to thousands of persons who can't breathe on their own because of non-functioning or impaired lungs or experience challenges when breathing. Common patients of respiratory therapists suffer from bronchitis, stroke, congenital disabilities, heart attack, emphysema, sleep apnea, cystic fibrosis, asthma, drowning accidents, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. RCPs can also treat surgery patients and trauma victims. Additionally, respiratory care involves rehabilitation services, education, and diagnostic testing.

Common respiratory care responsibilities include the following:

  • Using life support mechanical ventilation like assessment, application, monitoring, and analysis
  • Administration of medication
  • Monitoring patient's responses to medication and equipment
  • Acquiring blood specimens and studying them to check carbon dioxide, oxygen levels
  • Measuring the volume of a patient's lungs to check if there is impairment
  • Maintaining artificial airways (intubation or tracheostomy)
  • Acquiring and analyzing chest X-rays and sputum specimens
  • Interpreting test data
  • Assessing crucial signs and symptoms of respiratory conditions
  • Treating patients suffering from disruptive sleep patterns
  • Conducting rehabilitation activities
  • Performing stress tests and cardiopulmonary system studies
  • Conducting smoking cessation and asthma education programs

Although many respiratory care practitioners work in hospitals (intensive care, pediatric units, emergency, and cardiac care), you can also work in other areas like:

  • Private homes
  • Laboratories like sleep testing, blood gas, rehabilitation, cardiopulmonary
  • Nursing facilities
  • Medical flight transport
  • Hyperbaric oxygen unit

How Does the Respiratory Care Board of California Work?

The Respiratory Care Board of California is mandated to protect the public from the unqualified and unauthorized respiratory care practice and from unethical conduct by licensed persons to offer respiratory care services. The Board should also do public awareness of respiratory care as a profession and support the development and education of RCPs.

The purpose of the Board is to protect patients rather than helping practitioners. As a result, the Respiratory Care Board of California will:

  • Restrict the issuing of professional licenses
  • Revoke or suspend licenses for major offenses
  • Enforce the California Code of Regulations, Business and Profession Code, and Respiratory Care Practice Act
  • Issue public reprimands and citations

If a complaint is brought against you, the Board could suspend or revoke your professional license. However, the mitigating or aggravating factors and the type of offense determine the Board's decision.

What Crimes or Misconduct Can Trigger Disciplinary Action Against You by the California Respiratory Care Board?

The administrative law judges use board disciplinary guidelines at the administrative hearings on allegations against an RCP. The offenses are either minor or major.

Major violations include:

  • Any conduct that presents a threat to the public, your patient, or you
  • Failing to complete a board-ordered evaluation or program in time
  • Committing at least two minor violations of probation
  • Contacting patients while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Committing an offense which is a violation of federal or state law, or Business and Professions Code
  • Testing positive for an illegal substance
  • Knowingly making, using, possessing, or making a product or object in a manner that defrauds a drug test designed to detect the presence of an illegal substance.
  • Failing to comply with restrictions or suspensions in your practice
  • Falsifying a document about your probation conditions
  • Failing to make daily contact as instructed, appear as requested by the Board for testing, submit to testing when requested, under the biological fluid testing terms and conditions

Minor violations include:

  • Failing to contact a monitor as instructed
  • Failing to appear at a required meeting
  • A violation that doesn't present threats to the public or respondent
  • Failing to present monthly probation monitoring costs or cost recovery in time
  • Failing to present all the necessary documentation to the Board or your employer timely per probation terms and conditions

Different Disciplinary Actions Imposed by the Board

Discussed below are the different disciplinary actions imposed by RCB:

Interim Suspension

An interim suspension order is an emergency order that an ALJ can issue to suspend your professional license immediately. Per Business and Professions Code 494, the ALJ can issue the order before a hearing if allowing you to continue practicing could lead to harming public members.

The process of issuing the ISO involves either a one-step process or a two-step process.

The two-step process can only be used if the agency proves that there is a risk of a severe injury to the public. An ISO could be issued in a short time without a hearing or notice. Then a hearing on the ISO is required to be held after submitting a 15-day notice and the opportunity to respond. The Board should bring the accusation, a hearing conducted, and a verdict issued by the ALJ on the accelerated time frame. If the deadlines aren't met, the operation of the law will dissolve the order.

In the one-step process, only the noticed hearing is held.

If faced with an interim suspension order, it is essential to contact a professional license defense lawyer immediately. The attorney could request changes to your ISO and prepare a defense. Please note there are specific legal requirements for the introduction of evidence in an ISO hearing. It will help if you do not cross-examine or interview witnesses. Additionally, there are no statements you can make on the record regarded as evidence.

You Might Face a Citation

Typically, minor violations are punished using citations. These administrative actions aren't considered disciplinary actions and don't require to be revealed to professional organizations and employers. Additionally, unlike disciplinary actions, they aren't a matter of public records and are not published on the RCB official website. They are removed from the RCB files after two to three years.

If you have received a letter of investigation showing the professional license is at stake or an accusation, you should contact a lawyer with both professional license and criminal law experience. That way, you are confident your case is handled by an expert who understands how the cases affect each other.

You Might Face a Probation

A respiratory care practitioner can be placed on probation after filing an accusation. The decision to be placed on probation can stem from an order after an administrative hearing or a stipulated settlement. When placed on probation, your professional license is revoked. However, the license revocation has stayed, and probation conditions and duration are outlined in your probation order. Should you fail to adhere to terms of probation, the license is revoked.

Common terms and conditions include:

  • Comply with all laws: You should adhere to all laws, irrespective of whether local, state, or federal. You should also obey regulations governing the California respiratory care practice. You should notify the RCB in writing within three (3) days of the incident leading to your arrest, issued citations, and charges brought against you.
  • Quarterly reports: You should bring quarterly reports of compliance per penalty of perjury on forms provided by the Board's probation monitor. Any falsification or omission of information on the report constitutes a violation of probation.
  • Probation monitoring program: You should follow the requirement of the Board appointed probation monitoring program and should, upon request, appear to or report to a local venue as instructed. You should also provide the Board with the names, work email addresses, physical addresses, and telephone numbers of your employees or supervisors. Additionally, you should give written consent to authorize the Board and its representatives and your boss or supervisor to communicate regarding your monitoring, performance, and work status.
  • You should notify your employers and supervisors during the probation period of the probation. It is achieved by providing the boss a copy of the order, the statement of issues, and the accusation.
  • You should notify the RCB in writing of changes in location, address, and employment within three days of the change.
  • You should submit to the probation monitor work schedule weekly or monthly for the probation period for all places of employment.

Probation is a disciplinary action. In other words, it is a public record.

Mitigation and Aggravating Factors

The presiding administrative law judge at your administrative hearing will refer to the Board's disciplinary guidelines and consider mitigating and aggravating factors when rendering their decision.

Common aggravating factors pressed include:

  • Harm suffered by the patient
  • Potential harm which could have happened
  • Violation of the employer's or patient's trust
  • Existence of prior violations on the record
  • Patterns of repeating a violation under scrutiny
  • Committing an offense in the presence of a person below 18 years of age
  • Having a California felony or misdemeanor on police record which is significantly associated with your qualifications or duties

Some of the mitigating factors your experienced professional license attorney can use in your favor include the following:

  • You've taken rehabilitation steps.
  • You reported the violation to the RCB.
  • The violation was not intentional.
  • A significant duration of time has passed since the violation without repeating it.
  • You do not have a previous disciplinary or criminal history.
  • Your conduct injured no one.
  • You recognize that you made a mistake.
  • You've already taken corrective measures to prevent recurrences.

What Happens at an Administrative Hearing?

Before looking at what will happen at your administrative hearing, you should take steps after receiving a letter of investigation:

  • Do not panic: You might have an available defense that could dismiss your case or reduce disciplinary action.
  • Engage a lawyer: You are entitled to have an attorney. Your attorney should negotiate a favorable settlement with the Board. Also, the lawyer will assist you and analyze how various strategies could result in different outcomes.
  • Take note of deadlines: To fight your case, you should make informed decisions and meet all deadlines. For instance, to preserve the entitlement to a hearing, you should tell the RCB within fifteen days after receiving the accusation. If you refuse to respond, the Board will go ahead with license revocation.

The purpose of the administrative hearing is to check on aggressive enforcement efforts. It assists in making sure there is a balance struck between the professional's entitlement to practice and the right of the public to be safeguarded from dangerous specialists.

The ALJ presides over your proceeding. The hearing is identical to a mini-court trial with:

  • Witnesses
  • Opening statement
  • Closing statement
  • Evidence

Independent of the Respiratory Care Board of California, the ALJs are experienced attorneys whose responsibility is ensuring respondents receive fair trials.

Burden of Proof

Like in criminal cases, the prosecution team should prove their evidence beyond any reasonable doubt to convict you. However, the burden of proof here is less because there is no incarceration.

If there is an accusation, the Board should prove that the respondent does not qualify to have the respiratory therapist license. However, in a statement of issues case, the burden of proof moves to the respondent, and they should present evidence that they qualify for their professional license.

Pre-trial Discovery

Before the administrative hearing, all parties should collect proof for the case.

Although the discovery process isn't complicated, you should have access to essential materials such as:

  • Names of the Board's witnesses
  • An investigative report made by the Board
  • Copies of statement relevant to your case

Testimony and Evidence

You could introduce the appropriate evidence, cross-examine board witnesses, and contact and examine witnesses.

You are entitled to appear on your behalf.

In a conviction-related hearing, it is essential to prove that:

  • You've been rehabilitated from the offense.
  • The sentence was for an offense that isn't significantly associated with your profession.

Proposed Decision

Approximately a month following the hearing, the administrative law judge will make recommendations to the Board. It is also known as a proposed decision.

The Board has one hundred days to determine whether to endorse the proposed decision. More often than not, the Board will agree with the proposed decision. If the RCB disagrees, it will issue another disciplinary order.

Can You Appeal If You Lost Your Hearing?

If you go through the hearing process and lose the hearing, you can bring a petition for a writ of administrative mandate. It allows you to request the Superior Court to analyze and reverse your Board's order.

How to Reinstate Your License

If you have spent many years studying and building your career, you might be wondering if and how you could return to the profession. Seeking professional license reinstatement isn't uncommon, and any experienced attorneys will tell you that many suspended or revoked licenses have been reinstated.

The process of license reinstatement involves filing a petition for reinstatement with the Board. Here is the step-by-step process:

Determining Eligibility

Your eligibility depends on the conditions of the RCB's disciplinary decision. You should wait for one (1) to three (3) years before submitting your petition.

Requesting a Petition

After qualification has been satisfied, you should request a reinstatement petition from the Board. You should then return your completed petition alongside materials such as:

  • Proof of ongoing education
  • Character letters
  • Summaries of completed rehabilitation programs

Obtaining a Notice to Appear

Every petitioner is entered on the waiting list. The Respiratory Care Board of California will contact you to confirm your interest in seeking reinstatement. If you still wish to reinstate your license, you will obtain a notice to appear. Additionally, you will get a deadline to present more materials for consideration.

Testifying to the RCB

Both you and your lawyer will testify to the board members, the public, administrative law judge, and court reporter. You won't testify about the reason your license was suspended or revoked. Instead, you will pay attention to what you have done since your disciplinary action and prove safety to practice and rehabilitation.

A hearing is opened for questions by the Board and the deputy attorney and later a closing statement.

ALJ's Decision

Following the hearing, the ALJ writes a verdict depending on the RCB's wishes. You will be informed of the verdict in forty-days. You could appeal your decision, or else it will be effective in thirty days.

Appealing to the Board

You could appeal the decision of the RCB in its partial or entirety like the necessary fees and testing. The RCB members vote if they desire to reevaluate the decision. If so, they return to a closed session, and you do not have to reappear.

Find a License Defense Lawyer Near Me

To practice as a respiratory therapist, you need a license obtained after years of specialized training. However, all these efforts could go down the drain if you are charged with criminal charges or professional misconduct. The accusations could have detrimental effects on your life and career. If you've received a letter of investigation, contact the legal team at The Legal Guardian at 888-293-0396. We are committed to assisting you in protecting the professional license and helping you continue offering respiratory care services to your patients.