Mental Health Counselors and Psychotherapists: Simple Rules for Keeping Your License and Avoiding Complaints

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I represent many mental health counselors, social workers, psychologists, and professional counselors, defending them on complaints being investigated against their professional licenses. Many complaints and investigations arise because the therapist has strayed over the line and crossed the therapist-client boundary. In reviewing these cases, I have drawn up a list of a few simple “bright line” rules that can help save you many hours of stress and mental anguish as well as thousands of dollars in attorney’s fees and costs defending yourself

These “rules” may seem to be common sense, but there they are, anyway:

1. DO NOT ever meet the client at an outside social activity or attend a social event with the client. This includes “just dinner” or “just-drinks.”

2. DO NOT text the client. Texting is not secure and leads to casual and unprofessional thinking and conversation with the client. Many health care institutions prohibit their physicians and employees from texting with clients because of the HIPAA Security and Privacy Rules. You can use that as an excuse if you need one.

3. DO take a screenshot and print out the text when you violate the above rule. Place it in the client’s health record because you will probably be seeing it again, attached to a complaint.

4. DO send an e-mail or, better yet, a professional letter to the client, instead of texting the client. Print out a copy and place it in the client’s health record, because you will probably see it again.

5. DO NOT EVER make any suggestive or sexual remarks to the client in any communications, oral or written or text, or e-mail. In fact, DON’T even think about it. This includes off-color jokes and comments.

6. DO immediately terminate the relationship with the client, transferring care to a different therapist, if the client suggests anything of a sexual nature involving you.

7. DO NOT talk about other clients with the client.

8. DO NOT talk about your own personal life with the client. Especially DO NOT let the client have your personal home address or personal e-mail address.

9. DO NOT ever have sex with a client or former client. DO NOT even think of it. If you start to think of it, see Rule 6, above. Consider clients and former clients “off-limits” no matter how much you are tempted. If you are religious, just consider this as an attempt by Satan to seduce you. If it works, you are going to be in Hell, even before you die.

10. DO know what professional boundaries are and DO NOT cross them. This includes allowing a personal relationship to grow between you and the client, and includes selling anything to the client (e.g., Girl Scout cookies, tickets to a charitable event, Amway products, candy bars for your kids’ school band, etc.), agreeing to meet the client at any outside event, accepting gifts from the client, hiring the client to work for you, accepting “voluntary” services from the client (including volunteering to work in your office). If you need a friend that bad, terminate the therapist-client relationship and see Rule 6, above.

11. DO know that if you have even a suspicion that your therapist-client relationship is getting out of bounds, then it already is out of bounds. See Rule 6, above.

12. DO call a professional therapist colleague who is more senior to you and consult her or him about the “situation” if you think there may be a “situation.”

These may sound like “no-brainers” to you, but you would be surprised at how many complaints against licensed counselors and psychologists there are as a result of violating one or more of these “rules.”

(Note: These “rules” are just guidelines meant to help you keep out of trouble; these are not meant to be enforced against anyone, nor do they create or represent any “standard of care.”)

For additional information on how our firm can assist you in matters like this, click here to read one of our prior blogs.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists, social workers, and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) investigations, board hearings, FBI investigations, and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

We also defend health professionals and health facilities in general litigation matters and business litigation matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

2022-09-30T20:00:01-04:00October 2nd, 2022|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |0 Comments

Florida Law Aimed at Healthcare Professional Background Screening Passed

Attorney Michael L. SmithBy Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

For several years, many healthcare professionals have been required to pass a Level II background check in order to work in most Florida healthcare facilities licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA). Many healthcare professionals are also required to pass a Level II background check in order to be licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). In March 2020, the Florida Legislature passed House Bill 713, which will add the offenses of battery on a vulnerable adult and battery on a patient or resident of certain healthcare facilities (primarily nursing facilities) as a disqualifying offense. The law took effect on July 1, 2020. Previously, only felony battery and battery on a minor were disqualifying offenses for purposes of the Level II background screening.

More Details on the New Legislation.

A health professional who previously passed the Level II background check may nevertheless be deemed “not eligible” for employment in a licensed health facility on the next Level II background check. This would occur if the practitioner has been found guilty of, regardless of adjudication, or entered a plea of nolo contendere or guilty to battery of a vulnerable adult, or battery on a patient or resident of a healthcare facility. (This is the wording of the statute, not mine.)

A practitioner who is determined to be “not eligible” on a Level II background check due to a disqualifying offense must apply for an exemption from that disqualifying offense, in order to be permitted to work. The practitioner seeking an exemption has the burden of proving that the exemption should be granted. The provider must prove this with clear and convincing evidence, a standard that is higher and stricter than that in a civil trial.

Any health professional seeking an exemption from a disqualifying offense should seek the assistance of an experienced health law attorney familiar with the application process, and the types of evidence that can prove that the health professional should be granted an exemption.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: Michael L. Smith, R.R.T., J.D., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Study Reveals Complex Coding Structures in U.S. For Rise in Medical Billing Costs

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A study publicized in August 2022 revealed that the complex coding structures used in the United States drive up medical billing costs. This helps to make the U.S. one of the most expensive countries for health providers to get paid. According to the study, researchers used a micro-level accounting of billing and insurance-related (often abbreviated “BIR”) expenses in different national settings at six provider locations in five nations: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore. This most recent study supplements a prior study measuring such costs in the U.S.

The findings, published in Health Affairs Journal, revealed “BIR (billing and insurance-related) costs in the U.S. are generally much higher than the costs in other countries.” This means that all the extra costs of coding and billing, including the related expenses, are a significant factor in driving up health care cases in the U.S. Say what you want about doctors’ hating paperwork, but this study seems to validate that feeling.

The Findings of the Study.

The study confirmed what research has established that billing and insurance-related (BIR) costs in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries. For example, prices range from $6 in Canada to $215 in the U.S. for an inpatient surgical bill. In the U.S., that represented about 3.1 percent of the total professional revenue for the procedure. Providers also spent about 100 minutes processing the claim.

To compare, only Australia had similar billing and insurance-related costs to the U.S. Australia has a mix of publicly and privately funded payers and universal coverage. Billing and insurance-related costs were significantly less in Canada than in the other nations. The study said Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands had equal billing and insurance-related costs.

A Common Trend: Complex Coding.

The U.S. has a coding process in which each payer has its forms and documentation requirements, creating a significant burden on providers to translate clinical documentation into billable codes for reimbursement.

Because of standardization in other countries, providers spend less time coding or do not need coders to translate documentation into billable codes. Additionally, “little physician time is spent entering billing-related information into the EHR [electronic health record] system, as charge codes are either generated automatically or entered manually by a lower-wage or nonclinical teammate,” the study stated. “As a consequence, these countries’ billing systems either require fewer labor resources or much less costly labor and physician time than the one in the U.S.”

Researchers also found that financial counseling could reduce overall billing and insurance-related costs in the U.S.

You can read the study in full and learn more by visiting Health Affairs, a leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

LaPointe, Jacqueline. “Coding Drives Up Medical Billing Costs in the US.” Rev Cycle Intelligence. (August 3, 2022) Web.

Norris, Amanda. “REV CYCLE PROCESSES PUSH U.S. TO TOP OF LIST FOR HIGHEST MEDICAL BILLING COSTS.” Health Leaders Media. (August 10, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

AHCA Exemptions From Employment Disqualification for Florida Health Professionals

Attorney Geoge F. Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida law requires that health professionals (including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, nurse practitioners, professional counselors, and social workers, among others) obtain a Level 2 background screening before working in a facility licensed by the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA).  This includes third and fourth-year medical students, resident physicians, and nursing students.  Often an arrest from years ago, sometimes decades ago, will be located during this screening.  A letter stating that the individual is disqualified from employment or requiring an explanation may result.  What do you do?

Level 2 Background Screens.

A level two background screening requires your fingerprints.  It is done by checking the National Criminal Information System (NCIS) database maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).  The NCIS receives reports, arrests, investigations, and criminal actions from all U.S. law enforcement agencies and the military.

It is much broader than a Level 1 background screening and covers all states and U.S. jurisdictions.

Problems and Incomplete Reports.

Although agencies that report arrests and investigations are also supposed to report the outcomes to the NCIS, they often fail to do this.  Therefore there may be incomplete information in the report that is received.  An arrest may be entered, but the dismissal or other resolution of the case may be omitted.  This will cause problems because you will have to explain what happened and produce court documents to prove it.  For example, we had a nurse-client whose Level 2 background screening came back with an arrest for a drunk and disorderly charge, in New Orleans, at Mardi Gras when she was 18 years old, over 30 years prior.  The courthouse had since been flooded during a hurricane, and all records were destroyed.

Another problem lies in military records.  Reports from The Army Criminal Investigative Division  (CID). Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OIS) and Navy Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) are often received and entered into the system, even if the investigation concerned an administrative infraction, a minor infraction of regulations, or resulted in an Article 15 non-judicial punishment (NJP), an administrative proceeding which is not a criminal conviction.  Civilian authorities often mistakenly interpret Article 15 non-judicial punishment (NJP) as a “conviction,” but U.S. Supreme Court cases specifically state that it is not.

Certain Criminal Offenses Will Disqualify Health Professionals from Employment.

Many criminal offenses may be returned on a Level 2 background screening which initially appears to disqualify the individual from being employed in an AHCA-licensed facility, especially where the patients will be elderly, disabled, or children.  In this case, you will get a letter back from AHCA and/or your employer advising you that you are disqualified from employment, but you have thirty (30) days to provide documents to show what really happened, show the charges were dismissed, show that you have completed any sentence you received or show you have been fully rehabilitated.

We recommend that you obtain the services of an experienced health attorney in completing the forms and obtaining and producing the documents needed.  You should contact an attorney at the earliest sign that this might occur.  You will need certified copies of court documents and probation documents, as well as character reference letters.

The fact that you received prior screening when you applied for a license or before you began school is irrelevant to this process.  You will have to follow the procedure, anyway.  In the case of an actual guilty plea, a plea of nolo contendere (no contest), finding of adjudication withheld (deferred), or finding of guilty, you will have to request an exemption or a waiver from AHCA so that you may be cleared to be employed.

The Health Law Firm Attorneys have experience in Complying with AHCA Requirements and in Foiling Requests for Exemptions or Waivers.

The attorneys at The Health Law Firm have experience completing the petitions and providing the documents and explanations that AHCA requires in such matters.

Below is a copy of a decision letter from AHCA showing a successful result in such a case.

Exemptions for Employment Disqualification for Health Professionals

For more information, read our recent blog on Florida’s legislation on background checks for health professionals.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620.


“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Completing an Application for a Nursing License? Here Are Some Helpful Tips!

author headshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The process of obtaining a nursing or health care professional license is not only challenging, but it’s also time-consuming. If you have a criminal conviction or unique circumstance which may negatively impact your ability to be granted a health care license, you must consult with an experienced attorney. Your career or future depends on your ability to positively present yourself to the board.

In instances where the applicant has a criminal history, substance abuse/alcohol problem, or discipline in another state, the board members are trying to discern from the testimony if he or she is safe to practice medicine.

Don’t Face State Licensing Boards On Your Own.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license and have had prior adverse action taken against you in another state or during your academic training, you should contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in the process.

Some tips to ease the process include:

  1. After obtaining an experienced attorney, ask how to answer application questions when unclear.
  2. Submit follow-up documents in a timely manner.
  3. Make sure your address is correct and complete.
  4. Follow-up with sources sending the Board of Nursing documents.
  5. Provide answers to the questions asked, and no more.
  6. Submit corrections when it becomes apparent you need to modify an answer.

If you are in the process of applying for a nursing license or any other license in the medical field, you will want an experienced health law attorney to be on your side to guide you through the process. Let the attorneys at The Health Law Firm be there for you. Call the Health Law Firm today, visit our website, and click on Contact Us.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Representing Nurses and Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or health care license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action againstlawyer sitting with nurse in front of paperwork at desk your license, you must contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood, it is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney. The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues.


To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: PAlexander@TheHealthLawFirm.com or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

New Study Faults Coding Structures For Increased Medical Billing Costs in U.S.

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A study publicized in August 2022 revealed that the complex coding structures used in the United States drive up medical billing costs. This helps to make the U.S. one of the most expensive countries for health providers to get paid. According to the study, researchers used a micro-level accounting of billing and insurance-related (often abbreviated “BIR”) expenses in different national settings at six provider locations in five nations: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore. This most recent study supplements a prior study measuring such costs in the U.S.

The findings, published in Health Affairs Journal, revealed “BIR (billing and insurance-related) costs in the U.S. are generally much higher than the costs in other countries.” This means that all the extra costs of coding and billing, including the related expenses, are a significant factor in driving up health care cases in the U.S. Say what you want about doctors’ hating paperwork, but this study seems to validate that feeling.

The Findings of the Study.

The study confirmed what research has established that billing and insurance-related (BIR) costs in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries. For example, prices range from $6 in Canada to $215 in the U.S. for an inpatient surgical bill. In the U.S., that represented about 3.1 percent of the total professional revenue for the procedure. Providers also spent about 100 minutes processing the claim.

To compare, only Australia had similar billing and insurance-related costs to the U.S. Australia has a mix of publicly and privately funded payers and universal coverage. Billing and insurance-related costs were significantly less in Canada than in the other nations. The study said Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands had equal billing and insurance-related costs.

A Common Trend: Complex Coding.

The U.S. has a coding process in which each payer has its forms and documentation requirements, creating a significant burden on providers to translate clinical documentation into billable codes for reimbursement.

Because of standardization in other countries, providers spend less time coding or do not need coders to translate documentation into billable codes. Additionally, “little physician time is spent entering billing-related information into the EHR [electronic health record] system, as charge codes are either generated automatically or entered manually by a lower-wage or nonclinical teammate,” the study stated. “As a consequence, these countries’ billing systems either require fewer labor resources or much less costly labor and physician time than the one in the U.S.”

Researchers also found that financial counseling could reduce overall billing and insurance-related costs in the U.S.

You can read the study in full and learn more by visiting Health Affairs, a leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

LaPointe, Jacqueline. “Coding Drives Up Medical Billing Costs in the US.” Rev Cycle Intelligence. (August 3, 2022) Web.

Norris, Amanda. “REV CYCLE PROCESSES PUSH U.S. TO TOP OF LIST FOR HIGHEST MEDICAL BILLING COSTS.” Health Leaders Media. (August 10, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

COVID-19 Burn Out Causing More Resident Physicians to Unionize, Part 2

stethoscope and gavel with the word covid-19 written before it
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

This is part two of a blog series focusing on the effects of COVID burnout in healthcare professionals. Don’t forget to read part one.


The Problem With Residents’ Working Conditions Existed Long Before the Pandemic.

It’s common for resident physicians to work long hours for relatively low pay. They have little or no ability to determine their schedule and are generally locked into positions for up to seven years. Certainly, medical residents have voiced concerns about their work lives long before the pandemic. Some describe years of grueling schedules, sometimes with 24-hour shifts, including 80-hour workweeks. “Residents were always working crazy hours, then the stress of the pandemic hit them really hard,” John August, a director at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations, is quoted as having said.

To learn more about issues that affect residents and fellow physicians, click here to visit the American Medical Association (AMA) Resident and Fellow Section.


Benefits & Drawbacks of Unionizing.

Medical residents looking to unionize often cite such basics as pay and working conditions as top reasons. For reference, first-year residents earned just under $60,000 on average in 2021, according to a survey done by AAMC.  At 80 hours a week, one could calculate that residents could very well be earning less than the minimum wage, according to the AAMC data.

Those unionizing typically say wages are too low, especially given residents’ workload, student loan debt, and the rising cost of living.

Additionally, some residents say that unions can have upsides for hospitals and can also help enhance patient care. Patients deserve physicians who aren’t exhausted and preoccupied with the stress of finances. “To take good care of others, we need to be able to care for ourselves. We love being residents and caring for patients. But we can’t do that well if we neglect ourselves,” said a University of Vermont Medical Center resident.

On the other hand, residents unionizing is not without its potential drawbacks. For hospitals, money is an issue. Although federal funding helps pay residents’ salaries, most training expenses come from hospitals. In many instances, because of the pandemic, those funds are now depleted, said Janis Orlowski, MD, AAMC chief health care officer.

Some worry that unionizing can undermine the connections between residents and the physicians who train them. Another primary concern for hospitals is the threat of a strike; although rare, it has been decades since the last one. Many residents also worry that unionizing could undermine patients’ and communities’ trust in them.

Happy Residents, Happy Patients.

For some healthcare workers, the COVID-19 pandemic solidified the importance of a union. Residents have been on the front lines of care but were not alwaysmedical residents giving a thumbs up with arms up in the air the first to access PPE or lifesaving vaccines. Others are simply looking for acknowledgment of the sacrifices they’ve made while caring for the country’s most vulnerable patients.

However, one thing remains clear; both sides agree that the goal is to become a good physician and get taken care of in the process.

For more information on residency programs, click here to watch one of our video blogs, and make sure to check out our YouTube page.


Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Residents, Fellows, and Medical Students.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents resident physicians, fellows and students, including medical students, dental students, nursing students, pharmacy students, and other healthcare professional students, who have legal problems with their schools or programs. We also represent students, residents, and fellows in investigations, academic probation and suspensions, disciplinary hearings, clinical competence committee (CCC) hearings, and appeals of adverse actions taken against them. The Health Law Firm’s attorneys include those who are board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Weiner, Stacey. “Thousands of medical residents are unionizing. Here’s what that means for doctors, hospitals, and the patients they serve.” AAMC News. (June 7, 2022). Web.

Kwon, Sarah. “Burned out by COVID and 80-hour workweeks, resident physicians unionize.” Kaiser Health News. (May 27, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Brenden. “Why more resident physicians are looking to unionize.” AMA. (June 28, 2022). Web.

Author HeadshotAbout the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

16 Tips For Health Professionals to Avoid Sexual Harassment Complaints & Allegations

Author Headshot

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Throughout my decades of representing health care professionals, I have seen cases where an economic competitor of a physician generated false sexual harassment complaints to eliminate competition. I have seen cases where an ex-employee invented false allegations of sexual harassment after that employee was caught embezzling money from the employer. There have been cases where administrative and nursing staff have conspired to create complaints against a demanding and unpopular physician in a hospital setting. Therefore, I am never surprised when a physician claims they are the subject of a fabricated sexual harassment complaint and contacts me seeking a consultation.

As a result, I have come up with a list of tips that any individual health professional should follow to avoid such complaints and allegations.

Below are helpful tips that all medical professionals should know to avoid sexual harassment complaints or allegations:

1. Avoid all office and workplace romances.

2. Do not touch others, especially those of the opposite sex.

3. Never even consider having a romantic relationship with a patient.

4. Do not tell off-color or sexually suggestive jokes.

5. Do not compliment a worker, staff, or colleague of the opposite sex on their appearance, clothes, etc. This is a good rule to follow, even if the other person is of the same sex.

6. If your remarks or conduct is perceived as inappropriate by a staff member, or they say this, apologize immediately and assure them this was not intended and will never happen again. Then document the incident with a note to your own file or a memorandum to yourself. Consider reporting the incident your group’s administrator or office manager.

7. Do not socialize inappropriately with anyone who may be considered your subordinate or over whom you have perceived authority, especially where alcohol is involved. The exception is for sanctioned, official group functions.

8. Do not socialize with patients.

9. Do not use obscene language in the workplace, in front of other staff, employees, or patients.

10. If anyone alleges you acted inappropriately, report it to the group’s administrator immediately.

11. If a patient makes a sexually suggestive remark or asks you out, arrange to have that patient transferred to the care of a different health professional, immediately.

12. Know that plaintiff’s attorneys in sexual harassment and discrimination cases advise their clients to keep detailed notes and diaries concerning their contacts with a perceived abuser or harasser.

13. If a complaint is filed against you, report it immediately (to both the group administrator and your insurer) and retain an attorney to represent you regarding it. It could result in a lawsuit, a Board of Medicine complaint, termination of employment, peer review proceedings to revoke your clinical privileges or other actions.

14. Be familiar with your medical group’s and the hospital’s policies and procedures on sexual harassment, disruptive behavior, and reporting incidents. Follow it.

15. Act professionally when in contact with patients, staff, or colleagues.

16. Know that investigators and plaintiff’s attorneys in sexual harassment and discrimination cases often advise the alleged victim to contact the perpetrator by telephone and attempt to obtain incriminating statements. If a tape recording of the conversation is made by law enforcement officials, it will probably be admissible in proceedings against the alleged perpetrator. Never discuss any inappropriate activity over the telephone.

To learn more about the severe repercussions of such allegations, read my blog, where I discuss sex discrimination complaints against the University Of Southern California Medical School.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At The Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, dentists, nurses, resident physicians, mental health counselors, social workers, pharmacists, and health facilities. Our legal representation also includes medical students, medical school professors, and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in investigations, contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians and other healthg professionals accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

COVID-19 Burn Out Causing More Resident Physicians to Unionize, Part 1

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

This is part one in a blog series focusing on the effects of COVID burnout in healthcare professionals. Be sure to check back for part two.

As you know, residents are new physicians who have recently finished medical school and are spending three to seven years obtaining additional training in a medical specialty. Almost all hospitals practice independently; after all, they are doctors already. And in nearly all hospitals where resident physicians practice, they represent the front line of medical care. On duty all the time, on-call all the time, they are usually the first medical professional to see a new patient who can make a diagnosis and order tests or medications. In addition, resident physicians are generally the first to examine, diagnose, and treat a patient.

In most hospitals, in the past, residents were treated almost as indentured servants, required to work long hours without sleep, pull back-to-back shifts, and remain on call for extensive periods. This was considered a right of passage for resident physicians; a “baptism of fire.” If they couldn’t hack it, they did not deserve to be a physician in the specialty.

More than 80 Hours per Week-a Routine Occurrence.

However, recently (let’s say in the last decade or so), it has been recognized that overworked health professionals cannot provide optimum, safe patient care. This led such organizations as the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which accredits residency programs in the U.S., to require that such programs and hospitals that residents work in must limit the resident physician’s work hours to no more than 80 (yes, 80) hours per week. It got so bad that at least one state, New York, passed a law stating that it was illegal for resident physicians to work more than 80 hours per week.

However, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were hospitals and residency programs that would require their residents to work more than 80 hours a week and to turn in false time sheets showing they had worked fewer. We have had many reports that such programs even meet with their residents before an ACGME inspection (or survey) and tell them they must lie to the investigators (or surveyors) and falsely state they did not work more than 80 hours.

COVID-19 Comes on the Scene.

However, in a real crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, where patients are coming into hospitals dying right and left, it must be acknowledged that resident physicians and other hospital staff will be working above and beyond the maximum, no matter what. The long hours, the lack of relief, the stress of losing patients, and the stress of exposure to a potentially deadly disease have taken their toll on many resident physicians. Those who have contracted the virus and had to rush their recovery and recuperation to get back to work have, perhaps, suffered the most.

Residents Banding Together to Unionize.

Many resident physicians are now banding together to demand higher wages, better benefits, and working conditions due mainly to the “burnout” they experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic. They join nurses, medical assistants, and other health care workers who are unionizing and threatening to strike. In addition, staffing shortages, the rising cost of living, and the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID vaccines have pushed them to their limits.

In some places, New York being a familiar example, resident physicians already had unions representing them in many areas. Now, this is expanding.

Check back soon to read part two of this blog series.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Residents, Fellows, and Medical Students.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents resident physicians, fellows, and students, including medical students, dental students, nursing students, pharmacy students, and other healthcare professional students, who have legal problems with their schools or programs. We also represent students, residents, and fellows in investigations, academic probation and suspensions, disciplinary hearings, clinical competence committee (CCC) hearings, and appeals of adverse actions taken against them. The Health Law Firm’s attorneys include those board-certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Weiner, Stacey. “Thousands of medical residents are unionizing. Here’s what that means for doctors, hospitals, and the patients they serve.” AAMC News. (June 7, 2022). Web.

Kwon, Sarah. “Burned out by COVID and 80-hour workweeks, resident physicians unionize.” Kaiser Health News. (May 27, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Brenden. “Why more resident physicians are looking to unionize.” AMA. (June 28, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law, is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

U.S. Government Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Extending Health Benefits for Millions of Americans

Author HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On July 15, 2022, the United States again renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing millions of Americans special access to free tests, vaccines, and treatments. The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began. Since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has renewed it each quarter. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra officially renewed the declaration extending it through October 13, 2022. View it in full here.

Ensuring Continued Access to Special Services During the Public-Health Emergency.

The declaration allows the U.S. to grant emergency authorizations of drugs, vaccines, and other medical countermeasures. As a result, it can administer those products to millions of people at no out-of-pocket cost. It’s also enabled millions of Americans to get health coverage through Medicaid, among other benefits.

It may also have additional benefits, such as allowing certain health care professionals to practice across state lines without getting a license in the state where the patient is and encouraging the continuation of video visits (telemedicine). But check your state and national regulations to be sure.

When the public health emergency expires, insured patients will be subject to co-pays or other costs, while the uninsured will lose easy access to free testing. In addition, millions could risk losing Medicaid coverage as states reinstate stricter enrollment rules that they had loosened to qualify for enhanced federal funding.

The Biden administration has ensured states it will give 60 days’ notice before ending the emergency to allow sufficient time to prepare for changes to specific programs and regulatory authorities. To learn more about Public Health Emergency Declarations, visit the Office for the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response.

To read one of my prior blogs on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the healthcare industry, click here.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, fellows, medical school professors, and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Aboulenein, Ahmed. “U.S. Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Reuters. (April 13, 2022). Web.

Griffin, Riley. “Biden Administration to Again Extend the Covid Public-Health Emergency.” Bloomberg Law. (July 11, 2022). Web.

AHLA. “US Government To Extend COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Again.” Health Law Daily. (July 13, 2022). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law; he is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

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