March 30, 2017

QUESTION:        We received word through the grapevine that a Medical Staff member was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (“DUI”) last weekend.  Does our Medical Staff leadership need to take any action, or should we only act if we’ve observed problems in the hospital?

ANSWER:            A DUI may be a sign of a significant underlying problem, or it may reflect only a momentary lapse in judgment.  Given this uncertainty and the potential risks to patients and the practitioner, it makes sense to speak with the practitioner about the DUI, gather relevant information, and decide if any additional action is needed.  This approach protects both patients and the practitioner.

Gathering information about the DUI is consistent with the process followed by some state medical boards, which use a trained professional to interview physicians who are arrested for a DUI to determine if an additional assessment or intervention is required.

The hospital’s Credentials Policy and Practitioner Health Policy should help physician leaders to address these issues:

  • The Credentials Policy should make clear that applicants and members of the Medical Staff must notify the Medical Staff Office, the Chief of Staff, or the Chief Medical Officer of any change in information provided on their application form. In fact, the Credentials Policy could specifically state that physician leaders must be notified of any DUI or similar matter.
  • The Practitioner Health Policy should outline a non-punitive, supportive process for carefully obtaining a practitioner’s input, evaluating a potential health issue, and helping the individual resolve the issue.

For more information on how to handle these and other issues, join us May 4-6 in New Orleans (and enjoy Jazz Fest at the same time – responsibly!).