Our Leadership Council is developing a Performance Improvement Plan (“PIP”) for a practitioner at our hospital who does not play well with others. One member of our leadership team suggested that we send the practitioner out for a mental health evaluation before finalizing the PIP. Is this advisable?
OUR ANSWER FROM HORTYSPRINGER ATTORNEY IAN DONALDSON:
As a rule of thumb, we recommend that you stay away from requesting mental health evaluations from practitioners who have failed to meet your Medical Staff’s standards regarding professionalism. In our experience, such an evaluation only tends to cloud the Leadership Council’s thinking on how best to address the inappropriate behavior that has been identified. Additionally, a request for an evaluation might give the practitioner a basis for claiming that he or she was discriminated against under the ADA if disciplinary action is ultimately taken. That is why we believe it is better to focus on the behavior at issue rather than spending too much time and energy trying to identify its cause.
Of course, impairment and “burnout” are real concerns. So, if there is compelling evidence that suggests that the practitioner is dealing with a legitimate health issue, then an evaluation may be appropriate. But that should be managed through your process on practitioner impairment, not your Professionalism Policy or Code of Conduct.
If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Ian Donaldson at firstname.lastname@example.org.