Last Updated: December 21, 2022. Report error / Make suggestion

Initial Application Requirements

Who/What Agency governs or oversees the profession?

  • The Washington State Department of Health and in turn, the Secretary of Health

What are the background check requirements?

  • Applicants for a license must submit to a background check through the Washington State Patrol.  In some instances, you may also be required to submit fingerprints for examination by the State Patrol and the FBI.  These instances might include if you have recently lived out of state or where you have a criminal record in Washington.
  • The Department will notify you if your background check reveals a criminal record.
    • Only when the background check reveals a criminal record will you receive a notice. Upon receiving such a notice, the DOH must provide you with a copy of the record at your request.

Are there any convictions that will automatically disqualify me?

  • Yes. A medical professional license application may be denied (or granted with conditions) if you have been convicted or have pending charges for a crime involving moral turpitude or a crime identified in RCW 43.43.830 involving children or vulnerable adults.
    • The term “conviction” includes pleas of guilty or no contest, and cases with a deferred or suspended prosecution/sentence
  • The DOH will also consider the results of any background check conducted that reveals a conviction for any criminal offense that constitutes unprofessional conduct as defined by RCW 18.130.180 or a series of arrests that demonstrate a pattern of behavior that, may pose a risk to the safety of patients.

Do Certificates of Restoration of Opportunity (CROPs) apply to the position?

  • Yes, but only in certain instances.  CROPs only apply to the positions of home care aides and long-term care workers.  Even with a CROP, the DOH may still deny a license on the sole basis of your criminal record, as long as they make an individual inquiry about 1.) nature and seriousness of the offense 2.) time since incarceration 3.) changed circumstances  and 4.) nature of employment/license sought.
  • CROPs do not apply to nursing home administrators, nurses, physicians and physician assistants, and vulnerable adult care providers.

License Suspension/Revocation

  • Why might my license be suspended or terminated?
    • Your license can be suspended of terminated for either Unprofessional conduct as defined in RCW 18.130.180, or Inability to practice with reasonable skill and safety due to a physical or mental condition.
    • RCW 18.130.180 describes what is considered unprofessional conduct, which can include, but is not limited to the following:
      • Commiting any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption relating to the practice of the person’s profession
      • Misrepresentation on an application
      • Incompetence, negligence, or malpractice which results in injury to a patient or which creates an unreasonable risk that a patient may be harmed.
      • Violation of any state or federal statute or administrative rule regulating your profession
      • Aiding or abetting an unlicensed person to practice 
      • Willful betrayal of a practitioner-patient privilege
      • Current misuse of alcohol or drugs
  • How does the Department of Health learn about potential grounds for suspension?
    • The DOH learns about these grounds through employers of license holders, who are required to report any act or acts that may constitute unprofessional conduct; individuals, impaired practitioner programs, and voluntary substance abuse monitoring programs who are not required to, but may submit reports of unprofessional conduct; and finally from applicants themselves when affirming on their application that they have a physical or mental condition that may impair their ability to practice.
    • Once reported, the DOH will determine if an investigation should be conducted
  • How do I find out about a denial, suspension or termination?
    • If the DOH denies your initial application, they will notify you of the denial and the factual basis for it. 
    • If a DOH investigation determines there is likely unprofessional conduct, they will notify you of the charge(s) against your license “at the earliest practical time.”  Along with the charging document, you will also receive a notice that you can petition for a hearing.
  • How do I ask for a hearing?
    • If your application is denied, or the DOH has alleged unprofessional conduct, you can request a hearing by applying in writing, stating why you feel the decision was wrong.
    • If the DOH has learned of the potential inability to practice, you can request a hearing in the same way you would if accused of unprofessional conduct.
      • The hearing will be on the sole issue of your capacity to practice with reasonable skill and safety.
      • As part of this process, the DOH may also order you to submit to a mental or physical exam.  You have the right to challenge this order in writing within 20 days of receiving notice.
    • It is also possible that the DOH may, before serving charges, present you with a “statement of allegations” that seeks informal settlement. These are not considered disciplinary action and, if agreed to, the DOH cannot seek further disciplinary proceedings.
  • What are the deadlines for requesting a hearing?
    • To request a hearing following a denial of a license application, you file the request with the DOH within 28 days following your denial. RCW 18.130.055(4). Your request must include a copy of the denial notice. 
    • To request a hearing following a notice of unprofessional conduct, you must request a hearing within 20 days after being served the statement of charges. RCW 18.130.090.
      • If the twenty-day limit results in a hardship you may request an extension not to exceed sixty additional days. If the DOH finds that there is good cause, it shall grant the extension.
      • If you fail to request a hearing, the DOH will make a determination based upon the facts available to it.

How to Prepare for a Hearing

  • When will the hearing be and who will oversee it?
    • The Administrative Procedures Act, RCW 34.05, governs all hearings including denial of licensure, unprofessional conduct, and inability to practice.
    • Once you request a hearing, the DOH will set a hearing to be held within 90 days of the receipt of your request.
      • The DOL must give you at least 7 days advance notice.
    • The hearing will be conducted by Department of Health’s Adjudicative Service Unit.
    • Failure to attend or participate in a hearing will also be considered a default
      • A license holder has seven days from the date of service of a default order to file a motion requesting that the default be vacated, and must include a reason for the default
  • The process for hearing, what to expect, and what to prepare can be found by following the link below:
  • What do I have to prove at the hearing to succeed?
    • You will have the burden of proving that it is more likely than not that you are either a.) qualified under DOH rules and regulations, b.) have not committed unprofessional conduct, or c.) are fit to practice with reasonable skill and safety.
  • Is there an appeals process if I don’t agree with the final order? If so, what does that look like?
    • Yes. The process is outlined by the Administrative Procedures Act RCW 34.05
      • First, you may file a petition for reconsideration of a final order. This can be done within 10 days of the service of the final order.
        • This is an administrative review of the previous ruling.  The hearing officer may decide to grant your petition, deny your petition, modify the previous order, or set the matter for a new hearing.
      • You can also petition the superior court for review. This must be done within 30 days of notice of the final order.
        • The petition must be filed with the Superior Court for either a.) Thurston County, or b.) the county where you live.  You must also pay a $250 filing fee.
        • You are not required to petition for reconsideration before seeking review in court.
      • However, if you do file a petition for reconsideration first, then the 30 day time limit for filing with the court does not begin to run until after the petition for reconsideration is resolved.
      • You cannot seek judicial review until you have exhausted all administrative remedies unless you fall into one of three exceptions. RCW 34.05.534.
      • When reviewing your case, the Court can only consider the evidence admitted and facts established during the first administrative hearing.
      • You can request that the Court stay your suspension while the judicial review is pending, but the Court will only grant a stay if it finds that 1.) you are likely to win your appeal, 2.) you will be irreparably harmed without a stay, 3.) the stay will not cause harm to the other party, and 4.) there is not a serious threat to public health or safety.
    • If you still disagree with the decision following review by the Superior Court, you can appeal to the Court of Appeals.

What is the range of sanctions?

  • For both a finding of unprofessional conduct and a finding of inability to practice, the department will sanction under RCW 18.130.160. Sanctions can be any one or combination of the following:
    • Revocation of your license;
    • Suspension of your license for a fixed or indefinite term;
    • Restriction or limitation of your practice;
    • Requiring the satisfactory completion of a specific program of remedial education or treatment;
    • The monitoring of your practice by a supervisor approved by the disciplining authority;
    • Censure or reprimand;
    • Compliance with conditions of probation for a designated period of time;
    • Payment of a fine for each violation of this chapter, not to exceed five thousand dollars per violation.
    • Denial of your license request;
    • Corrective action;
    • Refund of fees billed to and collected from clients;
    • A surrender of your license in lieu of other sanctions, which must be reported to the federal data bank.

Post hearing, what are the options for reinstatement?

  • For unprofessional conduct:
    • In some cases, the unprofessional conduct may have been so severe that you can never have your license reinstated.
    • For lesser unprofessional conduct, you may petition the Department of Health for reinstatement after the period of time on the original order has lapsed. A hearing on the petition will then be held, and the DOH has the discretion to grant, deny, or grant with conditions, the petition for reinstatement.
    • Where the unprofessional conduct at issue was noncompliance with a support or visitation order, you may request reinstatement at any time, so long as you can provide evidence of your release from that order.
  • For inability to practice where you have been found mentally incompetent or unable to practice by reason of mental illness, you will be granted, at reasonable intervals, the opportunity to show you can practice “with reasonable skill and safety to the consumer.”
  • For denial of licensure, the reinstatement options depend on the reason for licensure denial. If the license was denied because you are not qualified, you must become qualified and re-apply. However, if denial is for something unchanging, such as a non-exempted crime, you may not be able to ever get licensed.

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