04-10-2015 | Health Law Blog

Disciplinary Boards and Health Care Professionals

By: BrownWinick

If you are a health care professional, you have no doubt had some interaction with a disciplinary board.  Nearly every type of professional is subject to the rules and oversight of a state disciplinary board, and health care professionals are certainly no exception.  Most health care professionals only need to interact with his or her applicable board to obtain a license, maintain or renew a license, report continuing education credits, report address changes and other administratively-focused tasked.  However, disciplinary boards also receive complaints, oversee the investigation of complaints (including through the issuance of subpoenas), determine whether disciplinary procedures should be initiated and determine whether discipline should be imposed.   

The following health care professional disciplinary boards exist in Iowa:

  • Board of Athletic Training
  • Board of Behavioral Science (Marital and Family Therapists, Mental Health Counselors)
  • Board of Chiropractic
  • Dental Board (Dentists, Hygienists, Dental Assistants)
  • Board of Dietetics
  • Board of Hearing Aid Dispensers
  • Board of Medicine (M.D., D.O., Acupuncturists L.Ac.)
  • Board of Nursing (R.N., L.P.N., A.R.N.P.)
  • Board of Nursing Home Administrators
  • Board of Physical and Occupational Therapy (Therapists and Assistants)
  • Board of Optometry
  • Board of Pharmacy (Pharmacists, Pharmacy Technicians)
  • Board of Physician Assistants
  • Board of Podiatry (Podiatrists, Orthotists, Prosthetists, Pedorthists)
  • Board of Psychology
  • Board of Respiratory Care
  • Board of Social Work (LBSW, LMSW, LISW)
  • Board of Speech Pathology and Audiology                      

Most of these Boards are staffed by the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Professional Licensure.  However, each Board has its own separate Board Members. The law sets forth the requirements for the makeup of each Board, which generally requires a certain number and type of the professionals that are subject to the Board’s jurisdiction plus two members of the general public who are not licensees.

It is important to remember that these Boards differ from other organizations involving health care professionals.  For instance, the Boards are not credentialing organizations, although they often base eligibility for licensure on such credentialing or the passing of a test provided by such organizations.  The Boards are also not professional membership organizations. The purpose of professional membership organizations is to provide information to and advocate on behalf of a certain group of professionals.  On the other hand, a Board’s purpose is to protect the public and ensure the “integrity and competence” of the professionals it licenses.

While most contact with your applicable disciplinary board will not require the assistance of an attorney, if you receive a subpoena, a request for records, notice of a complaint or other requests signaling that you are under investigation or that a disciplinary proceeding is coming, you should contact counsel.  The Boards all have processes and procedures that must be followed – by you and the Board.  The investigative and disciplinary actions of a Board can have a serious adverse impact on your licensure and your livelihood and thus, must be taken seriously.  You do not want to be subject to disciplinary actions – such as the revocation, suspension or probation of your license – without having taken all necessary steps to protect your interests and ensure that the Board has heard any information that you have to present in response to a complaint.