How to Avoid Professional Misconduct

Adhering to Professional Conduct Standards

Things can get awkward if you don't stick to the rules.
Things can get awkward if you don't stick to the rules.
Digital Vision/Thinkstock

Because the guidelines for professional licensing vary by state, the best place to look for information about proper professional conduct is the state in which you'll practice. The office or agency responsible for licensing will have the details about conduct standards for each occupation.

Professional associations are also another valuable resource for licensed professionals. Associations are concerned with the livelihood of the job and have a strong interest in maintaining its integrity. Therefore, these organizations will have a lot of information about ethics and guidelines that their members can tap into. For occupations that require continuing education, a professional association can be a resource for identifying classes that fulfill these requirements.

Even though most people act in accordance with an industry's guidelines, some still have to deal with allegations of misconduct. If someone is found guilty of deliberately breaching conduct standards, a number of situations could happen.

When a misconduct charge is filed, the professional usually undergoes an investigation, followed by a hearing. The investigation determines whether enough evidence exists to warrant a hearing. A committee rules on the incident and maintains a record of complaints. While some investigations are dismissed due to lack of supporting evidence, other cases result in action taken against the person.

These actions vary in their severity and may escalate depending on the situation:

  • Admonishment
  • Suspension
  • Revocation of license
  • Banishment

When a professional receives an admonishment, he or she receives a warning about behavior and may have to attend conduct classes. If the situation is more severe or is a repeat offense, suspension from practicing for a certain period of time may follow. More serious cases may result in the professional completely losing her license. Finally, the most egregious cases of professional misconduct may get the practitioner banned from ever practicing again. This ensures that someone doesn't leave one state and attempt to seek licensure in another.

While professional codes of conduct may seem strict, they're in place to protect the public and ensure its safety. For lots more information on conduct in the workplace, see the links below.

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  • America's Career InfoNet. "Licensed Occupations." (Date accessed online: July 2, 2010)
  • American Legal Ethics Library. "California Rules of Professional Conduct." (Date accessed online: July 2, 2010)
  • Council on Licensure, Enforcement and Regulation. "Occupational Regulation Statutes." (Date accessed online: July 2, 2010)
  • Federation of State Medical Boards. "Protecting the Public: How State Medical Boards Regulate and Discipline Physicians." (Date accessed online: July 2, 2010)
  • New York State Department of Health. "Frequently Asked Questions." (Date accessed online: July 2, 2010)