Do you have balance in your life?

Doctors …. do you have balance in your life?

In the past, I have written about the three main areas where the State Medical Board in Ohio takes disciplinary actions against physicians: (1) for submitting false information to the Board, (2) for violating a professional boundary with a patient and (3) for issues related to drugs or alcohol (see previous post entitled, “What the Medical Board Really Cares About – Sex, Drugs and Lies”).  Recently, I looked at many of the cases before the Medical Board to determine if there are similar warning signs or red flags that may have been present before a complaint is filed with the Board. What I found is that in many instances the physician had been living a life that is out of balance.

Physicians are trained to look for signs of health (or disease) in their patients, however, too often they do not look for those warning signs in themselves. I often see that the complaint with the Medical Board is just the “final straw” in a year (or years) of a physician living an unbalanced life.  I find that, in many cases, physicians are overworked, overweight, stressed out, and living meaningless and angst filled lives. Many are taking medications to help them sleep and then other medications to help them get through their work days. Many eat out too often, haven’t seen the inside of a gym in ages (or ever), and are living meaningless, spiritless lives.

In terms of boundary violations, they rarely happen  to physicians who are in loving, supportive marriages or relationships. Many times, a physician will find themselves immersed in a Medical Board investigation when they are also in the middle of an ugly divorce or professional partnership that has taken a turn for the worst.

As physicians, you worked hard in school to put yourself in a position where you would have choices. Choices about where you work and what type of work you would like to engage in on a daily basis. Now is the time to exercise those choices and put yourself in a work environment that you find interesting, fulfilling and enjoyable.

I recently read that in tough financial times many people start to step back from their jobs (or job searches) and consider what they can do to make their overall lives better. Many have found that by spending more time with family and friends, exercising more often, and taking “control” of their lives they have found the energy and spirit to be more successful in work or in their job searches. Despite the tough economy, gym memberships were up in 2011 and many more people participated in Weight Watchers and other programs to improve the overall quality of their lives.

Doctors … look at your lives. Are you healthy, happy and fulfilled? If not, now if the time to reclaim your life and the direction of your professional career.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to email me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.

Physician/patient relationship = power imbalance

The State Medical Board of Ohio addressed two cases at its March meeting concerning the physician-patient relationship.  http://www.med.ohio.gov/pdf/Agenda/Agenda%20-2012/03-12agenda.pdf

In one case, the Medical Board suspended the license of a physician for 180 days after a hearing based on the finding that the physician had engaged in a sexual relationship with an indigent patient after providing the patient with “free” medical care and “free” medicine. From the physician’s perspective, she honestly believed that she was providing a medical service to the patient that he could not otherwise afford and that she should not then be “punished” for providing this care.   The physician did not comprehend that having a personal (read: sexual) relationship with the patient violated the physician/patient relationship.  Regardless of the fact that the medical care provided to the patient without charge, a physician-patient relationship was created.  The Board suspended the physician’s license for 180 days for the boundary violation.

In the second case, the State’s attorney offered for Board approval a Consent Agreement  for a physician who had engaged in a sexual relationship with a patient, which proposed to impose no active suspension on the physician’s license. The rationale given by the State’s attorney for no suspension was the fact that the patient was also the corporate attorney for the medical practice and therefore the legal staff did not believe that there was the same imbalance of power between the physician and the patient that usually leads to physician discipline. The state’s attorney argued that the physician and attorney/patient were on a more even footing.  The state’s attorney argued there was no imbalance of power and consequently no suspension should be imposed on the physician’s license.

The Board members did not agree with this argument. In a rarely seen move by the Board, the proposed Consent Agreement, was rejected by the Board.  While this is a very unusual fact pattern, it clearly shows the Board believes strongly about the inherent imbalance of power in a physician-patient relationship.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the medical board in general, please feel free to call me at 614-486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

What to do if contacted by a Medical Board investigator

In my practice I receive calls each week from nervous and frightened physicians who have been contacted either by telephone or letter from a Ohio Medical Board or even Pharmacy Board investigator.  The question I am always asked is:

Do I have to talk with the investigator?

First, never speak with an investigator without competent legal counsel. Anything you tell an investigator can be used in a disciplinary action against you by your licensing board and/or by the police in a criminal investigation.

Depending on the facts in your case, sometimes I advise clients to speak with investigators or to provide a written statement to their licensing board regarding an alleged complaint. However, I never have my clients meet with investigators without legal counsel and I never allow my clients to submit written statement that I have not had a chance to review.

Also, don’t allow the investigator to set the timing for when you will respond to them. I am often contacted by nurses who have been contacted by an investigator from the Ohio State Medical Board and advised that they need to meet with the investigator or submit a written statement to the investigator within 24 or 48 hours.  These deadlines or almost always negotiable. Do not allow the investigator to rush you into providing them with the statement until you have had a chance to meet with legal counsel.