District of Columbia Regulation of Physicians

In the District of Columbia, regulations with respect to physicians are set forth in the D.C. Code §§ 3-1205.01 through 3-1205.23.  A license issued pursuant to this chapter is required to practice medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, registered nursing, practical nursing, dentistry, dental hygiene, dietetics, marriage and family therapy, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, nutrition, nursing home administration, occupational therapy, optometry, pharmaceutical detailing, pharmacy, physical therapy, podiatry, psychology, social work, professional counseling, audiology, speech-language pathology, respiratory care, advanced practice addiction counseling, or to practice as an anesthesiologist assistant, physician assistant, physical therapy assistant, polysomnographic technologist, occupational therapy assistant, or surgical assistant in the District, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.  Registration is required to practice as a nursing assistive personnel, or as a psychology associate, polysomnographic technician or trainee, or dental assistant. Certification is required to practice as an addiction counselor I, or an addiction counselor II, and to practice advanced practice registered nursing.  A license, registration, or certification is the property of the District of Columbia and shall be surrendered on demand of the licensor.[i]

Pursuant to D.C. Code § 3-1205.03, an individual applying for a license under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the board regulating the health occupation that the individual:

  • Has not been convicted of an offense which bears directly on the fitness of the individual to be licensed;
  • Is at least 18 years of age;
  • Has successfully completed the additional requirements set forth in § 3-1205.04 and subchapters VI, VII, VIII and VIII-A of this chapter, as applicable;
  • Has passed an examination, administered by the board or recognized by the Mayor pursuant to § 3-1205.06, to practice the health occupation; and
  • Meets any other requirements established by the Mayor by rule to assure that the applicant has had the proper training, experience, and qualifications to practice the health occupation.

The board may grant a license to an applicant whose education and training in the health occupation has been successfully completed in a foreign school, college, university, or training program if the applicant otherwise qualifies for licensure and if the board determines, in accordance with rules issued by the Mayor, that the education and training are substantially equivalent to the requirements of this chapter in assuring that the applicant has the proper training, experience, and qualifications to practice the health occupation.  The board may deny a license to an applicant whose license to practice a health occupation was revoked or suspended in another state if the basis of the license revocation or suspension would have caused a similar result in the District, or if the applicant is the subject of pending disciplinary action regarding his or her right to practice in another state.  The references in § 3-1205.04 and subchapters VI, VII, VIII and VIII-A of this chapter to named professional organizations and governmental entities for purposes of accreditation or the administration of national examinations shall be considered to refer to successor organizations or entities upon a determination by the Mayor that the successor is substantially equivalent in standards and purposes as the organization or entity named in this chapter.

An individual applying for a license to practice acupuncture under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Medicine that the individual:

  • If he or she is a licensed physician or chiropractor, has successfully completed at least 100 hours of instruction in the practice of acupuncture at a school or college accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, or other training approved by the Board; or
  • If he or she is not a licensed physician, has successfully completed an educational program in the practice of acupuncture of at least 3 academic years at the post-baccalaureate level at a school or college accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Schools and Colleges of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, or other training approved by the Board.

An individual applying for a license to practice as an anesthesiologist assistant under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Medicine that the individual has:

  • Earned a degree or certification from an anesthesiologist assistant program accredited by the Commission for the Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs, or by the commission’s successor;
  • Successfully completed the Commission for the Accreditation of Allied Health Educational Programs National Certification Exam for Anesthesiologist Assistants, or an examination administered by its successor; and
  • Successfully completed and has current certification for the Advanced Cardiac Life Support program as administered by the American Heart Association or its successor organization.

An application for licensure as an anesthesiologist assistant may be filed by an individual who has taken the national certification examination required under paragraph (1)(B) of this subsection but not yet received the results.  An individual applying for a license to practice chiropractic under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Chiropractic that the individual:

  • Is a graduate of an educational program in the practice of chiropractic of at least 4 academic years at a college of chiropractic accredited by the Council on Chiropractic Education or the Straight Chiropractic Academic Standards Association, or approved by the Board of Chiropractic; and
  • Has satisfied any clinical experience established by rule.

An individual applying for a license to practice dental hygiene under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Dentistry that the individual is a graduate of an educational program in the practice of dental hygiene of at least 2 academic years which is approved by the Board.  An individual applying for a license to practice dentistry under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Dentistry that the individual is a graduate of a school of dentistry accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation.  An individual applying for a license to practice massage therapy under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Massage Therapy that the individual has successfully completed a minimum of 500 hours of training in massage therapy.  An individual applying for a license to practice medicine under this chapter shall establish to the satisfaction of the Board of Medicine that the individual is a graduate of an accredited school of medicine and has completed at least 1 year of residency in a hospital or other health-care facility licensed by the District or by any state.

D.C. Code § 3-1205.05 provides that an applicant for a license, registration, or certification shall:

  • Submit an application to the board regulating the health occupation on the form required by the board; and
  • Pay the applicable fees established by the Mayor.

The social security number of each applicant for a license, registration, or certification issued pursuant to this chapter shall be recorded on the application.  If a number other than the social security number is used on the face of the license, registration, or certification, the issuing agency or entity shall keep the applicant’s social security number on file and the applicant shall be so advised.

Each board shall issue a license, registration, or certification to an applicant who meets the requirements of this chapter and rules and regulations issued pursuant to this chapter to practice the health occupation regulated by the board[ii].  Pursuant to D.C. Code § 3-1205.09, a person licensed, registered, or certified under this chapter to practice a health occupation is authorized to practice that occupation in the District while the license, registration, or certification is effective.  A person certified to practice advanced registered nursing is authorized to practice the specialty for which he or she has been certified by the Board of Nursing.  An individual who fails to renew a license, registration, or certification to practice a health occupation shall be considered to be unlicensed, unregistered, or uncertified and subject to the penalties set forth in this chapter and other applicable laws of the District, if he or she continues to practice the health occupation.  A license, registration, or certification expires 1 year from the date of its first issuance or renewal unless renewed by the board that issued it as provided in this section, except that the Mayor, by rule, may provide for a period of licensure, registration, or certification of not more than 3 years.  At least 30 days before the license, registration, or certification expires, or a greater period as established by the Mayor by rule, each board shall send to the licensee, registrant, or person certified, by first class mail to the last known address of the licensee, registrant, or person certified, a renewal notice that states:

  • The date on which the current license, registration, or certification expires;
  • The date by which the renewal application must be received by the board for renewal to be issued and mailed before the license, registration, or certification expires; and
  • The amount of the renewal fee.

Before the license, registration, or certification expires, the licensee, registrant, or person certified may renew it for an additional term, if the licensee, registrant, or person certified:

  • Submits a timely application to the board;
  • Is otherwise entitled to be licensed, registered, or certified;
  • Pays the renewal fee established by the Mayor; and
  • Submits to the board satisfactory evidence of compliance with any continuing education requirements established by the board for license, registration, or certification renewal.

Each board shall renew the license, registration, or certification of each licensee, registrant, or person certified who meets the requirements of this section[iii].  Each licensee, registrant, or person certified shall:

  • Display the board-issued license, registration, or certification conspicuously in each place of business or employment of the licensee, registrant, or person certified;
  • Wear a tag at all times, if practical, while acting in a professional capacity that displays his or her name and profession or title;
  • Practice only under the legal name that appears on his or her license, registration, or certification;
  • Notify the board in writing of any change of address of place of residence or place of business or employment within 30 days after the change of address; legal change of name within 30 days after the change; or termination, revocation, suspension, or voluntary surrender (“separation event”) of health care facility privileges by reason of incompetence or improper professional conduct, during any period while an application is pending or during the licensing, registration, or certification period by certified mail, return receipt, within 10 days of the separation event.

Each licensee, registrant, or person certified shall be subject to the penalties provided by this chapter for failure to comply with the requirements of this section[iv].  Pursuant to D.C. Code § 3-1205.14, each board, subject to the right of a hearing as provided by this subchapter, on an affirmative vote of a majority of a quorum of its appointed members may take one or more of the disciplinary actions provided in subsection (c) of this section against any applicant for a license, registration, or certification, an applicant to establish or operate a school of nursing or nursing program, or a person permitted by this subchapter to practice a health occupation regulated by the board in the District who:

  • Fraudulently or deceptively obtains or attempts to obtain a license, registration, or certification for himself, herself, or another person;
  • Fraudulently or deceptively uses a license, registration, or certification;
  • Is disciplined by a licensing or disciplinary authority or peer review body or convicted or disciplined by a court of any jurisdiction for conduct that would be grounds for disciplinary action under this section; for the purposes of this paragraph, the term “convicted” means a judgment or other admission of guilt, including a plea of nolo contendere or an Alford plea;
  • Has been convicted in any jurisdiction of any crime involving moral turpitude, which for the purposes of this paragraph means a crime that offends the generally accepted moral code of mankind; is one of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the conduct of the private and social duties that an individual owes to his or her fellow man or to society in general; or
  • Is one of conduct contrary to justice, honesty, modesty, or good morals;
  • Is professionally or mentally incompetent or physically incapable;
  • Is addicted to, or habitually abuses, any narcotic or controlled substance as defined by Unit A of Chapter 9 of Title 48;
  • Provides, or attempts to provide, professional services while under the influence of alcohol or while using any narcotic or controlled substance as defined by Unit A of Chapter 9 of Title 48, or other drug in excess of therapeutic amounts or without valid medical indication;
  • Submits false statements to collect fees for which services are not provided or submits statements to collect fees for services which are not medically necessary;
  • Willfully breaches a statutory, regulatory, or ethical requirement of confidentiality with respect to a person who is a patient or client of the health professional, unless ordered by a court;
  • Prescribes, dispenses, or administers drugs when not authorized to do so;
  • Performs, offers, or attempts to perform services beyond the scope of those authorized by the license held by the health professional;
  • Engages in sexual harassment of a patient or client; sexual contact with a patient or client concurrent with and by virtue of the practitioner-patient or practitioner-client relationship; at any time during the course of the practitioner-patient or patient-client [practitioner-client] relationship, in conduct of a sexual nature that a reasonable patient or client would consider lewd or offensive; or sexual contact with a former patient or client when the patient or client may still be vulnerable by virtue of the power imbalance that existed in the practitioner-patient or practitioner-client relationship, even if the relationship may appear to be or is mutually consensual when such contact is likely to have an adverse impact on the patient or client;
  • Demonstrates a willful or careless disregard for the health, welfare, or safety of a patient, regardless of whether the patient sustains actual injury as a result;
  • Refuses, withholds from, denies, or discriminates against an individual with regard to the provision of professional services that the licensee, registrant, or person certified is licensed and qualified to render because the individual is HIV positive;
  • By corrupt means, threats, or force, intimidates or influences, or attempts to intimidate or influence, any person for the purpose of causing the person to withhold or change his or her testimony in a hearing or proceeding before a board, court, or the Office of Administrative Hearings;
  • Intentionally misrepresents credentials for the purpose of testifying or rendering an expert opinion in a hearing or proceeding before a board, court, or the Office of Administrative Hearings;
  • Practices under a name other than the name under which the individual is licensed, registered, or certified;
  • Makes a false or misleading statement regarding his or her skill or the efficacy or value of a medicine, treatment, or remedy prescribed or recommended by him or her, at his or her discretion, in the treatment of any disease or other condition of the body or mind;
  • Commits fraud or makes false claims in connection with the practice of an occupation regulated by this chapter, or relating to Medicaid, Medicare, or insurance; or
  • Acts in a manner inconsistent with the health and safety of the residents of the nursing facility of which the licensee is the administrator.

Upon determination by the board that an applicant, licensee, registrant, person certified, or person permitted by this subchapter to practice in the District has committed any of the acts described in subsection (a) of this section, the board may:

  • Deny a license, registration, or certification to any applicant or an application to establish a school of nursing or nursing program;
  • Revoke or suspend the license, registration, or certification of any licensee, registrant, or person certified or withdraw approval of a school of nursing or nursing program;
  • Revoke or suspend the privilege to practice in the District of any person permitted by this subchapter to practice in the District;
  • Reprimand any licensee, registrant, person certified, or person permitted by this subchapter to practice in the District;
  • Impose a civil fine not to exceed $ 5,000 for each violation by an applicant, licensee, registrant, person certified, or person permitted by this subchapter to practice in the District;
  • Require a course of remediation, approved by the board;
  • Require a period of probation; or
  • Issue a cease and desist order pursuant to § 3-1205.16.

Nothing in this subchapter shall preclude prosecution for a criminal violation of this chapter regardless of whether the same violation has been or is the subject of 1 or more of the disciplinary actions provided by this subchapter. Criminal prosecution may proceed prior to, simultaneously with, or subsequent to administrative enforcement action.  A person licensed, registered, or certified to practice a health occupation in the District of Columbia is subject to the disciplinary authority of the board although engaged in practice elsewhere. Subsection (a) of this section shall not be construed to limit the disciplinary authority of the board only to conduct or activities engaged in outside of the District that result in the imposition of discipline by a licensing or disciplinary authority where the conduct occurred.

D.C. Code § 3-1205.17 provides that any health professional who is the subject of an investigation into, or a pending proceeding involving, allegations involving misconduct may voluntarily surrender his or her license, registration, certification or privilege to practice in the District, but only by delivering to the board regulating the health occupation an affidavit stating that the health professional desires to surrender the license, registration, certification or privilege and that the action is freely and voluntarily taken, and not the result of duress or coercion.  Upon receipt of the required affidavit, the board shall enter an order revoking or suspending the license, registration, certification of the health professional or the privilege to practice.  The voluntary surrender of a license, registration, or certification shall not preclude the imposition of civil or criminal penalties against the licensee, registrant, or person certified.

Except as provided in subsection (b) of this section, a board may reinstate the license, registration, or certification or privilege of an individual whose license, registration, or certification or privilege has been suspended or revoked by the board only in accordance with:

  • The terms and conditions of the order of suspension or revocation; or
  • A final judgment or order in any proceeding for review.

If an order of suspension or revocation was based on the conviction of a crime which bears directly on the fitness of the individual to be licensed, registered, or certified, and the conviction subsequently is overturned at any stage of an appeal or other postconviction proceeding, the suspension or revocation shall end when the conviction is overturned.  After the process of review is completed, the clerk of the court issuing the final disposition of the case shall notify the board or the Mayor of that disposition[v].

Pursuant to D.C. Code § 3-1205.23, a board may suspend the license, registration, or certification of a person during any time that the person is incarcerated after conviction of a felony or misdemeanor, regardless of whether the conviction has been appealed.  A board, immediately upon receipt of a certified copy of a record of a criminal conviction, shall notify the person in writing at that person’s address of record with the board, and at the facility in which the person is incarcerated, of the suspension and that the person has a right to request a hearing.  If requested, the hearing shall be held within 6 months of the release of the licensee, registrant, or person certified.

[i] D.C. Code § 3-1205.01.

[ii] D.C. Code § 3-1205.08.

[iii] D.C. Code § 3-1205.10.

[iv] D.C. Code § 3-1205.13.

[v] D.C. Code § 3-1205.21.


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