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Last Updated on: 14th September 2023, 12:50 am
Navigating Speech Therapy License Defense as a Professional
As a speech therapist, your top priority is providing quality care to patients with communication disorders. However, even the most dedicated professionals can find themselves facing disciplinary actions or needing license defense at some point in their career. When your livelihood is on the line, it’s crucial to understand the laws impacting your practice and know your rights during board investigations. This article offers guidance to help speech therapists protect their license when issues arise.
Licensing Requirements and Common Violations
In order to practice legally in California, speech-language pathologists must obtain licensure from the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology and Hearing Aid Dispensers Board (SLPAHADB). Typical licensing requirements include earning a master’s degree, completing a clinical fellowship, and passing exams. While this licensing aims to ensure proper qualifications and public protection, it also gives the board authority to discipline licensees for legal and regulatory violations.
Some common issues that prompt board investigations of speech therapists’ conduct include practicing without a valid license, negligence, criminal convictions, supervision failures, scope of practice breaches, false statements on applications, patient right infringements, poor recordkeeping, substance abuse, and out-of-state discipline. If found guilty of violations, consequences can range from probation or continuing education to the severe outcomes of license suspension or revocation.
Navigating the Disciplinary Process
Disciplinary cases typically start when the licensing board receives a complaint, which investigators then review through interviews and record analysis. If they find evidence of violations, the board may take no action on minor issues or negotiate resolutions for more serious ones. However, they can also file formal charges and hold hearings to prosecute licensees.
At hearings, prosecutors aim to prove allegations through testimony and documentation. Licensees can dispute charges, present defense evidence, and have legal counsel. Afterwards, judges issue proposed decisions which the board reviews and acts upon. Any disciplinary measures become publicly accessible on the board’s website.
Working with Experienced Defense Counsel
Since professional discipline can profoundly impact careers, retaining an experienced attorney is advisable for licensees facing investigations or charges. Knowledgeable lawyers comprehend complex practice laws and can guide accused speech therapists through proceedings while building vigorous defenses. Possible strategies may include:
- Seeking dismissal of unfounded complaints
- Negotiating favorable settlements when suitable
- Disputing allegations and refuting charges
- Citing procedural errors by the board
- Presenting mitigating factors to reduce penalties
- Appealing unfavorable rulings
In addition to handling cases, lawyers can advise speech therapists on meeting legal standards in daily practice, helping avoid misunderstandings that lead to violations. With experienced counsel, speech professionals have the best opportunity to retain their license.
Recent Licensing Changes and Their Ramifications
California’s recent passage of AB 2686 brings licensing changes starting in 2027 – candidates can qualify with bachelor’s degrees rather than master’s if they meet other requirements. Supporters believe this could help address speech therapist shortages, but opponents argue it may lower educational standards and care quality. The impact on discipline rates and defense needs remains to be seen.
Malpractice Liability Risks
In addition to board actions, speech therapists also face malpractice liability if poor care harms patients. Negligence lawsuits can arise from misdiagnosis, treatment delays, therapy injuries, privacy breaches, failure to warn families, and more. Robust professional liability coverage is crucial to cover defense costs and damages in such cases.
Proactive Prevention of Allegations
While defense is critical when issues occur, prevention is the best initial strategy. Steps speech therapists can take to minimize risks include:
- Knowing and complying with all applicable laws, rules, and ethics
- Meeting continuing education requirements
- Using sound documentation, billing, and business practices
- Carrying adequate liability insurance
- Seeking legal counsel when unsure about regulations
- Maintaining open communication with patients and families
By making diligent efforts to avoid violations, therapists can reduce chances of facing license defense needs. However, even conscientious professionals might encounter allegations. When this happens, experienced counsel provides the best ally in protecting your reputation and livelihood.
Helping Speech Therapists Keep Their Licenses
Speech therapists, also called speech-language pathologists, have an important job. They help people with communication problems. They test patients to see what is wrong. Then they give therapy to fix the problems. But sometimes speech therapists can get in trouble at work. They might do something wrong by accident. Or someone might think they did something bad. Then they could lose their license. This means they can’t be a speech therapist anymore. So lawyers are there to help them. The lawyers know the rules that speech therapists need to follow. They help them keep their licenses if they get accused of doing something wrong.
Laws For Speech Therapists
In California, speech therapists need a license to work. They have to get it from the Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology Board. To get a license, they need to finish a master’s degree. They also have to do clinical training and pass some big tests. The licenses make sure speech therapists know what they are doing. They want patients to get good care. But the board can also take away licenses if therapists break rules. Some common ways therapists get in trouble are:
- Working without an up-to-date license
- Doing things negligently or unsafely
- Lying on their license application
- Getting convicted of a crime related to their job
- Not supervising assistants correctly
- Doing things they shouldn’t be doing as a speech therapist
- Not telling patients the right fees or what services they will get
- Hurting patients or abandoning them
- Not keeping good patient records
- Abusing drugs or alcohol at work
- Getting in trouble with licenses in other states
If speech therapists break these rules, they can get punished. For small problems they may just need to take some classes. But for big violations they can lose their license completely. This really hurts their career.
How Investigations And Hearings Work
It starts when someone complains to the licensing board about a speech therapist. The investigators will look into it. They interview people and check records. If they find proof of rule-breaking, a few things can happen. For little issues, they might just give a warning. For medium issues, they may have the therapist agree to do things like pay a fine or take more training. But if it’s serious, they can file official charges against the therapist. Then there will be a hearing.
At the hearing, lawyers try to prove the charges with testimony and evidence. The speech therapist can say they didn’t do it. They can show evidence on their side too. And they can have a lawyer help them. After the hearing, a judge decides if they did anything wrong. The board reviews it and decides on a punishment. Then it becomes public on the board’s website.
How Defense Lawyers Can Help
Since their career is at risk, speech therapists should get a lawyer to help them. Good lawyers know all the complicated rules for speech therapists. They can guide the therapist and defend them. Here are some things they do:
- Ask for charges to be dropped if there’s not enough proof
- Try to negotiate a deal or settlement if that makes sense
- Fight the charges and show evidence they didn’t happen
- Point out if the board didn’t follow right procedures
- Explain special circumstances to get lighter punishments
- Appeal the decision if the ruling is unfair
Lawyers can also help speech therapists avoid trouble in the first place. They teach them the right way to handle paperwork, billing, records, and other things. This stops problems before they even start. Good lawyers really improve a speech therapist’s chance to keep their license.
A New Law Coming Soon
California passed a new law called AB 2686 that will change licensing for speech therapists. Starting in 2027, people can get a license without a master’s degree. They just need a bachelor’s degree plus the right classes and experience. Supporters think this will get more speech therapists licensed. But critics worry it may lower standards of care. It’s not clear yet if it will affect investigations and hearings.
Getting Sued For Malpractice
Speech therapists can also get sued for malpractice. This means a patient says the therapist hurt them by not doing their job right. Some examples are:
- Misdiagnosing someone’s communication problem
- Waiting too long to test or treat them
- Injuring them with unsafe therapy techniques
- Breaking privacy rules about patient records
- Not telling families about risks
So speech therapists need good malpractice insurance in case they get sued. This pays for lawyers and any damages. Therapists should talk to insurance agents to get the right policy.