Despite practicing in only one state, many physicians maintain licenses to practice in multiple states. Some maintain active licenses in states where they no longer practice just in case they decide to return at some time in the future. Others allow the licenses to lapse and become inactive, having no intention of practicing in the former state again. Physicians holding more than one medical license, whether active or inactive, should be aware of the risks this presents in the event of a disciplinary licensure action. Consider the following scenario:
Dr. A currently practices in Nebraska, where he holds an active medical license. He completed his residency in Minnesota and practiced in Iowa before moving to Nebraska. He has allowed his Minnesota and Iowa licenses to expire and does not plan to return to practice in either state. Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services investigates a complaint from a patient of Dr. A. If the investigation results in disciplinary action against Dr. A’s license, this will be reported to the states of Minnesota and Iowa. These states may then investigate and discipline Dr. A, even if he has not renewed either license for several years. Each disciplinary action will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
Multiple investigations, even without adverse findings, come at a great expense in terms of the physician’s time, costs involved in defending them, and stress and anxiety. Multiple disciplinary actions can be additionally harmful to the physician’s career by affecting his ability to obtain or maintain credentialing, board certification, and future licensure.
To avoid the risk of multiple investigations/disciplinary actions, physicians should determine whether it is in their best interest to maintain licenses in states where they no longer practice or to formally surrender them before an investigation begins in any state. In most if not all states, attempting to surrender a license once an investigation begins will not protect the physician from disciplinary sanctions. Consultation with an attorney with knowledge of the laws and regulations pertaining to licensure actions in states where the physician holds active and inactive licenses may guide the physician in determining the best course of action with the least amount of risk.