Common Professionalism Concerns for Healthcare Professionals

nurse-practitioner-vs-primary-care-doctor-002-e1675797661360-300x141Our healthcare and business law firm assists many physicians and other healthcare professionals who are dealing with professionalism concerns.  Concerns can be identified by employers, licensing boards, professionalism societies, or even all three at once.  Over the years, our firm has helped providers deal with various professionalism concerns identified by their employers and/or licensing boards.  This post identifies some of the most common concerns we have seen.  The goal of this post is to provide useful information that healthcare professionals can use to make more informed professionalism decisions.  If you need assistance dealing with a professionalism concern or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting

Social Media Use

Inappropriate social media use is a big problem for all professionals.  Given, however, the sensitive and confidential information surrounding all aspects of a healthcare professional’s job, all information shared online should be heavily vetted.  In an ideal world for a lawyer, a great policy for healthcare professionals is to “stay off social media.”  But we understand that’s not everyone’s reality, so here are some steps to ensure proper social media use.  First, check your employer’s social media policy and follow it.  Many employers may not want you to identify your employer with personal social media accounts, so be sure to comply with this.  Second, ensure you understand your HIPAA responsibilities regarding patient information.  Thinking of posting a photo from work?  Don’t.  Likely it will violate your employer’s social media policy, HIPAA, or both.  Third, be careful not to post about workplace incidents in a way that your employer and/or patient could identify.  Even if no specific Protected Health Information (“PHI”) is identified in your post, if your colleagues can tell what or who you’re referring to, then it’s likely something that should stay offline.


This one is probably obvious, but if you are arrested, your employer and licensing board are going to want to talk with you about it.  It may not be relevant to your profession, but it could signal a behavioral concern that is of interest to your licensing board or employer.  Sometimes, an arrest is directly relevant to an individual professionally.  For instance, a physician who is arrested for a DUI while on call for a hospital—it happens.  Sometimes the line between work and home are blurred for healthcare professionals, so take this as a reminder to keep those boundary lines in place as best you can.  This also leads us to the next concern we often see.

Inappropriate Relationships

We all know that workplace romances happen.  But what happens if that relationship is between a provider and patient?  Or a relationship between a physician and a nurse who the physician supervises?  These are very complex and serious situations.  Not only can they raise concerns about patient care, but they also may be concerning to an employer or licensing board about the provider’s professionalism.  We see it time and time again where a provider and patient (or prior patient) are in a consensual romantic relationship, but when the relationship ends, the patient files a report to the provider’s licensing board.  These reports are taken seriously by all boards our firm has worked with.  Yes, there may be ways to protect yourself if you enter into a relationship with a former patient.  Always, though, the best decision is typically to avoid any sort of relationship with a patient beyond the patient-provider relationship.

If you need assistance dealing with a professionalism concern or would like to discuss this blog post, you may contact our healthcare and business law firm at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting


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