The Disciplinary Process for
Licensed Health Professionals
The Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) works to ensure the safe and competent delivery of health care to the citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Department licenses, certifies or registers over 350,000 health care practitioners and facilities, and through its health regulatory boards, enforces the laws and regulations pertaining to the conduct and practices of health care professionals. The Department performs the following functions:
- issues licenses, registrations, certifications and permits to applicants that meet qualifications established by law;
- investigates complaints of possible violations of law and regulation;
- inspects facilities for compliance with laws and regulations;
- enforces standards to ensure safety and integrity of drugs and medical devices;
- conducts studies and makes recommendations regarding the regulation of health care professionals and provides this information to the public.
There are 13 health regulatory boards within the Department of Health Professions. There are over 80 different professions and over 6,800 facilities regulated by these boards.
The Boards are:
- Audiology & Speech-Language Pathology
- Funeral Directors & Embalmers
- Long Term Care Administrators
- Nursing (includes the Nurse Aide Registry & Medication Aide Registry)
- Physical Therapy
- Social Work
- Veterinary Medicine
The Complaint, Investigation And Disciplinary Processes
The Department of Health Professions receives reports and complaints about health care practitioners and regulated facilities that may have violated state laws or regulations. Complaints regarding persons regulated by any of the 13 Boards are processed through the Department’s Enforcement Division Complaint Intake Unit. The sources of complaints are typically patients, family members, other health care providers, law enforcement entities, employers, courts or other concerned citizens. The Department accepts “anonymous” complaints, although anonymity cannot be guaranteed.
Complaints may be submitted in writing and may be delivered by mail, hand-delivery, fax or by e-mail.
There also is a toll-free number, 1-800-533-1560, that can be used to phone in complaints. Complaints may also be made in person during normal business hours. Anyone may request that the Complaint Intake Unit send them a complaint form for completion. This complaint form can be downloaded here.Hundreds of reports and complaints are made each year to the Department. The most frequently reported allegations are substandard care, substance abuse issues, and sexual misconduct. The Department and its boards do not have the legal authority to order reimbursement or award damages, nor does the Department have authority to investigate complaints about business practices over which it has no jurisdiction. If appropriate, the person making such a report may be referred to another agency or organization for assistance.
When information indicates that a possible violation of law or regulation within the Department’s jurisdiction may have occurred, an investigation is opened, recorded in the Department’s tracking system and assigned to an Investigator.
Specially trained, sworn Investigators and Inspectors of the Enforcement Division of the Department will attempt to interview all sources of the complaint, all potential witnesses and all subjects of the complaint. They will obtain copies of relevant documents and collect essential evidence. Sources involved in the investigation are encouraged to communicate directly with the assigned investigative staff as to the status of the investigations. Investigative staff typically are unable to discuss any details obtained from other witnesses or subjects of a complaint unless doing so is necessary to further the investigation. Investigators also work with federal and local law enforcement on criminal cases involving licensees of DHP.
Although the Department strives to ensure that all investigations are handled expeditiously, it is also the Department’s expectation that a thorough and legally sufficient investigation be conducted. When the investigation is completed, a comprehensive investigative report is submitted to the appropriate health regulatory board for its review and decision.
The Enforcement Unit is prohibited from providing a copy of the investigative report to the Source or the Subject of the complaint. However, the investigator assigned to the case will attempt to contact the source who made the report and inform them of the progress of the case.
The report of a completed investigation is sent to the appropriate health regulatory board. The Board reviews the case to determine whether there is probable cause to charge the licensee with a violation of law or regulation. If there is insufficient evidence, the case may be closed and no further action is taken. Administrative proceedings may commence if the Board believes there is sufficient evidence to indicate that a violation has occurred. If the case is not resolved by an agreement between the Board and the licensee, the matter may be scheduled for disciplinary proceeding. The Commonwealth and the licensees may each call witnesses and introduce evidence. Disciplinary proceedings are open to the public. Notices of proceedings and final orders from these proceedings are public documents and can be obtained through our web site on our License Lookup or Recent Case Decisions pages.
Boards are authorized to take the following actions:
- Close a case after a finding of no violation
- Offer a Confidential Consent Agreement (CCA), which is not regarded as a disciplinary action
- Offer a Consent Order in which the licensee consents to the Board’s disciplinary sanction
- After an informal fact-finding conference and/or formal hearing:
- Reprimand or censure
- Impose a monetary penalty, which goes to the state literary fund.
- Require remedial or corrective action
- Require a licensee to meet probationary Requirement
- Limit a licensee’s practice privileges and/or
- Suspend or revoke a license
The Board will notify the source and the subject of the complaint of its final decision.
Appeals of orders issued by health regulatory boards are made directly to state circuit courts. The Office of the Attorney General represents the relevant board in any such appeal.
The Department of Health Professions and its boards do not have the legal authority to order reimbursement or award damages.
All notices and final orders are public documents available for review by anyone who requests to do so. They also become part of the licensee's permanent official record. Copies of final orders are usually mailed to the original source of the complaint information. All other information related to a disciplinary case may be considered confidential and remains unavailable to the public.
In addition to any possible board action, the Department will work with all appropriate law enforcement agencies and prosecutors if information indicates that a criminal law may have been violated. Actions by boards and by the criminal justice system are taken separately.
Virginia Department of Health Professions
9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233-1463
Telephone: (804) 367-4400
To print this information download DHP's Enforcement Brouchure.