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How Do Bad Professionals Keep Their Licenses?

A professional license is a sign to the public that the person holding the license is competent in his or her field. Members of the public have the right to expect that licenses will be withheld from incompetent people or withdrawn from professionals who show themselves to be unqualified or untrustworthy. Unfortunately, the reality of licensing and license oversight does not necessarily justify much faith.

Government oversight

The Bureau of Professional Licensure is a body under the framework of the Iowa Department of Public Health. The BPL oversees 19 licensure boards, covering 39 professions. The professions range from barbers and chiropractors to optometrists and physician assistants. The BPL recently saw its budget cut. After the cuts, the BPL will go from four to two case investigators to handle all the complaints filed with any of the 19 boards.

Justice delayed or denied

In the past, investigations into misconduct from a licensed professional could take more than a year. With the investigation team cut in half, investigations are likely to be even slower. During these investigations, the license holders can continue to engage in dangerous practices. They can also choose to retire, drop their licenses or relocate to another state where they can resume practicing.

Incompetent or worse

The slow investigations do little to protect the public from professionals who have seen their skills deteriorate. Perhaps more dangerous, however, are situations where a licensed professional has engaged in dangerous, illegal conduct. In some cases, a licensed professional has been arrested, tried, convicted and put in prison, all before the board has gotten around to suspending or revoking the license. Unsuspecting members of the public could be placing their trust in a known offender simply because the BPL does not have the time or resources to do its job. Even consumers who take the time to check the credentials of the individual in question might be left in the dark. The result could be injuries from malpractice that should have been prevented.

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