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Washington State Dental Association

Legal News: Aiding or abetting

Alan Wicks, WSDA General CounselThere are a lot of rules which pertain to the practice of dentistry. Timely renewal of your own dental license is one of them. Less obvious, but very important, is to verify the valid existence and timely renewal of licenses for your associates and dental staff members.
As an employer, or perhaps even as a supervisor, of a person who is required to have a license, you may be vulnerable to a disciplinary charge of “adding or abetting an unlicensed person to practice” if you continue to employ the person when he or she has allowed the license to lapse. RCW 18.130.180 (10). The section also would apply if the person did not have a valid license upon initial employment. 
There have been investigations under this subsection, sometimes as an outgrowth of other alleged misconduct. 
It is not clear whether the employer must know of the license lapse to be disciplined. Knowledge might be necessary, but possibly a negligence standard would be held sufficient. 
Another pertinent statute which directly applies to prohibit employment of an unlicensed dentist is RCW 18.32.745.
Dental assistants may have a “registration” instead of a “license,” but renewal of the registration is equally important. The uniform disciplinary act, at RCW 18.130.020 (8), defines the term “license” as including registration or certification. 
What should you do? Verify valid licenses and registrations upon initial employment. Also, maintain a schedule of renewals and verify the renewals actually occur before expiration. A good target date to start this verification process might be thirty days before the scheduled renewal. If you delegate this cross-checking to an office manager, periodically check that the verification has been done.
One idea in relation to employees with lower incomes is to offer to pay for the renewal as a business expense. This will make it easier for the employee to bring his or her renewal notice into the office and make sure it gets done.


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