Professional licensing boards are agencies that license professionals in a particular career field and they investigate complaints, disciplines those who violate the law, conducts professional evaluations, and facilitates rehabilitation where appropriate. The boards are established by law and are there to protect the public and maintain the professional standards within the fields they regulate.
Licensing boards are usually composed of professionals in the field and members of the public to give a well balanced representation of the communities they serve.
The Boards also serve as a resource to the public, the professionals and the government, providing them with information on practitioners, education standards, licensing requirements, and of the role that practitioners and indeed the Boards themselves play in the society.
The functions of a Licensing Board include
- Licensing: A license to practice is usually considered a privilege, not a right, granted to qualified candidates. Apart from meeting the normal educational requirement needed to practice, most Boards also demand an evidence of a high moral and ethical standard from the candidates applying for a license.
- Complaints and Discipline: The Boards serves as a clearinghouse for complaints regarding unprofessional conduct. Complaints may come from individuals, institutions, public officers, other professionals or anyone else who has contact with the professionals.
The Board reviews all complaints, investigates and makes its recommendation. Written Board decisions include findings of fact and law and a variety of sanctions may be administered including: a reprimand; a suspension, limitation or restriction to practice; probation subject to conditions and requirements; indefinite revocation of the license; mandatory participation in a remedial continuing education program; compelled submission to care, counseling or treatment; and assessment of fees to cover the administrative costs of proceedings. In cases of egregious misconduct constituting an immediate danger to the public, the individual’s license may be suspended.
- Unprofessional Conduct: While professionalism is a difficult concept to capture, some of the behaviors or activities that constitute “unprofessional conduct” include conviction of a crime and practice while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs. Boards usually determine the line of action to be taken based on the circumstances surrounding the activity or behavior reported.
- Public Profiles: Information about practitioners can help consumers make better choices about the service they receive. Most states in the United Sates would guarantee by law the public access to a practitioner’s data including information about school attendance, graduate education, Board certification, years of practice, school affiliations, and publications. In addition the Boards may provide a description of any final disciplinary actions within the most recent 10 years, all malpractice judgments, arbitration awards and settlements.
- Continuing Education: As a condition of licensure, some practitioners such as doctors must complete an approved course of continuing education in the preceding three years. The Boards monitor the amount of continuing education a practitioner has received, as well as reviewing the education programs to ensure that the content is up to the high standards set by the Boards.
In addtion to the functions listed above, the boards help in help in dealing with issues that might arise a result of a conviction of a crime; practice while under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs; volitional falsification or misrepresentation of records; malpractice or incompetent, negligent or willful misconduct in the practice of the profession.