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Document a patient's pain very carefully

One of the quickest ways to endanger your medical license is to fall victim to a drug diversion scam or a patient who is abusing your services in order to fuel his or her addiction. That's why it's imperative to be particularly sensitive to the warning signs of drug-seeking behavior -- and particularly conscientious about documenting your efforts to validate a patient's legitimate need for pain medication.

The nation's Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) offers numerous tips to help medical professionals recognize drug abuse and drug-seeking behavior, including things like:

  • Patients who seem to exaggerate their symptoms (claiming pain is always a "9" on a scale of 10)
  • Patients who demand specific pain medication and reject any suggestion of alternative therapies without even trying them
  • Patients who seem to be reciting symptoms from a list (textbook-style)
  • Patients who are overly-assertive and seem to have an agenda
  • Patients who claim allergies to all nonnarcotics
  • Patients who seem to have only vague medical complaints that aren't supported by objective tests or clinical history

Handling patient complaints and anger

When is the best time to respond to an angry patient's complaints?

Ideally, you want to respond well before that patient takes his or her complaint to the medical board. A timely, appropriate response to an angry patient may be your best defense against claims of professional misconduct.

Former medical school dean loses license in California

The former dean of the University of Southern California lost his license after a hearing by the state's Medical Board.

A year earlier, a news investigation into the doctor's personal habits revealed some startling information. The 66-year-old doctor was spending his free time with a circle of acquaintances that were deeply into the party scene. A subsequent state investigation revealed that the Harvard-trained doctor was using both heroin and meth, engaging in drug use while seeing patients and providing drugs -- including prescriptions -- to others. He was also present when a young woman overdosed in his hotel room, and he misled others about her condition and drug use.

Online professionalism and your license

The digital age has created a whole host of opportunities in medicine, as well as problems. Doctors are now confronted with a dizzying array of ethical and professional issues that can erupt over something as simple as an online post.

Complaints about professionalism can quickly lead to a medical board hearing -- faster even than complaints about poor medical care. If you're a physician, that means that you need to be aware that your online professionalism is a growing area of concern to the medical board. Physicians need to be very careful about everything they do online -- whether it's in a professional capacity while responding to a Yelp review on their practice or when posting on their own Facebook page.

Is your lack of tech savvy endangering your legal practice?

There seems to be no end of ways in which you are at risk of complaints or disciplinary investigations. If a case does not go the client's way, he or she may question your competence as an attorney. While it may be difficult for a client to accept losing a case, especially if a lot is at stake, accusations of incompetence can affect your career in serious ways.

However, there is an area of legal practice in which some attorneys choose to remain incompetent, and that is in the realm of technology. Although you may still complete a great deal of legal work on paper, technological advances have allowed you and other attorneys to streamline many everyday processes. Failing to take advantage of that technology may result in ethical issues.

Avoid patient grievances through good communication

Patient grievances regarding unprofessional conduct in your office can easily lead to an inquiry from the licensing board, which is something that no physician wants to happen. Fortunately, many grievances are avoidable if you take the right steps.

Poor communication between a patient and your staff is at the root of many problems. To avoid unnecessary grievances and facilitate better communication with patients, use the following tips:

Take these steps when your professional license is at risk

If your nursing license is in jeopardy due to your being arrested or otherwise accused of unethical activities, you need to take swift action. This is not the time to hang back and hope it blows over. It won't.

Your livelihood may be threatened by fallacious or specious rumors spread by disgruntled coworkers, angry patients, jilted lovers or others with an ax to grind. Meanwhile, your career as a respected registered nurse hangs in the balance.

Dancing dermatologist agrees to suspended license

The woman who earned the moniker "The Dancing Doctor" for her on-camera antics inside the operating room with her patients has dropped her attempts to stop the medical board in Georgia from pursuing any further action. She's also accepted a minimum 30-month suspension of her license to practice.

The Georgia dermatologist came to national attention after she posted videos of herself rapping and singing along to various tunes while performing surgery. At times, her patients' partially-bare bodies could be seen in the videos. Although the doctor claims that she had her patients' consent and co-operation for the videos -- which she termed "educational" -- there's considerable doubt about that issue. The videos also scandalized many in the medical profession due to her apparent lack of professionalism. For her part, the doctor seemed unrepentant about the videos, even appearing on camera with news outlets to defend her practice.

Understanding patient abandonment for nurses

It has likely happened to every nurse at one time or another. A patient files a complaint against you claiming that you abandoned his or her care. This may have happened if you got detained with another patient and the condition of the first patient declined. Perhaps your shift ended and you forgot to pass the patient's care to another nurse. Maybe the care the patient needed was not part of your training or skills. However, are these examples of abandonment?

Whatever the situation, when the patient claims abandonment, you are at risk of involvement with the California Board of Registered Nursing. This means investigators will probably examine the details of the case and decide whether it warrants disciplinary actions. If you are facing charges of patient abandonment, it may benefit you to have a better understanding of how the Board defines this offense.

When the licensing board contacts you, avoid these 4 mistakes

Here's a scary fact: The odds of being the focus of an investigation by your state's medical licensing board is about five times higher than your odds of being sued.

With that in mind, it's important to recognize the biggest mistakes you can commit if you receive a letter that you're being investigated. No matter what:

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