Hospital Sanctions Can Severely Damage Your Medical Career

If you are a physician, nurse or other health care professional and are working at a hospital, you must be very careful if the hospital administration decides to punish you for some act or inaction.  Bear in mind that some sanctions will follow you for the rest of you career and will be very harmful to your prospects for advancement or employment elsewhere.  I have seen this situation arise with regarding to attending physicians, resident physicians and nurses.  Sometimes the issue is about professional negligence, but often it is about allegations of lying, inappropriate relationships with patients or co-workers, etc.  Whatever the claim is, do not take it lightly and do not try to deal with it on your own.  You are too close to the issue to see things objectively.

One example of this is a case that I recently resolved for a young attending physician at a major hospital.  The problem arose out of the fact that the doctor made in incision in the wrong place.  He realized his error, sutured the incision and then made the incision in the correct place and completed the operation.  He then reported his error to the hospital administration as was required by the hospital rules.

The administration reviewed the matter and told the doctor that he would be brought up on formal charges unless he agreed to a suspension of his hospital privileges for one week.  The doctor was prepared to agree to this punishment until he spoke with a lawyer who referred him to me.

I met with the doctor and first determined that he had no previous instances of problems with his professional or personal behavior.  I advised him that if he agreed to this suspension he would have to report the suspension for the rest of his life in at least the following circumstances;  an application to be on the staff of another hospital,  an application to join an HMO, and an application for liability insurance.  Also, this suspension would be reported to The Department of Health, Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) and he might end up in an interview with OPMC to explain himself.

I felt that a suspension of any period of time was too severe for what had happened given all of the circumstances.  So, I spoke with the attorney handling the matter for the hospital and told her that I wanted to fashion a better agreement, one that would avoid any suspension at all.  I took the position that it made no sense to really harm this young doctor by suspending him, that instead why not have him do something that would benefit the hospital without leaving a mark on his record.  After some negotiation sessions an agreement was reached to the effect that the doctor would not be suspended at all, but he would spend some hours in the operating room checking to make sure that incisions were being made in the correct location.  This agreement allowed the hospital to feel that it had punished the doctor while avoiding completely the reportable event of a suspension.

The point is that you might have to be creative in order to get the best possible result out of an unpleasant situation.

This informational video was brought to you by Paul E. Walker, an experienced New York City OPMC & OPD Lawyer.