They wear white coats, complete with the cap and all things associated with the nursing career. But they don’t head out to the hospital. They work in a different field. You may say they work as company nurses. No, they work in the legal field.
The correct term is “legal nurse consultants”, and yes, they are RNs or registered nurses. But what they do is give their expert, professional opinion to those in the legal field, and sometimes to government agencies and insurance companies as well.
As a registered nurse, a legal nurse consultant had the educational background and experience to provide opinions on matters related to health care issues and outcomes for those involved in a legal hearing that also concerns health care. Some of the cases they may be called upon to render their professional opinion on include personal injury cases, product liability, toxic torts, medical malpractice, and criminal law.
The work LNCs do
Essentially, they are consultants whose expertise is in the health care field. As part of their tasks, legal nurse consultants may be asked to:
- attend medical reviews
- do client interviews
- assess a plaintiff’s medical requirements (whether long-term or short-term)
- provide a cost estimate
- prepare legal documents
- conduct research on professional journals regarding healthcare
- assist lawyers in healthcare litigation
- give testimony in court as an ‘expert witness’
- work with other ‘expert witness’ in aid of the client
Salary and outlook potential for LNCs
The salary varies, as it is dependent on the employment type. The basis for salaries could also be experience, location, and even caseload. Some legal nurse consultants have put up their own consulting practice and charge according to the number of hours rendered for the service. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2014, legal nurse consultants earned a median salary of $66,640.
Is there an expected increase for the expert services provided by legal nurse consultants? That depends; as it is dictated by the number of legal cases related to healthcare (medication and medical malpractice) that progress all the way to the courtroom.
How to become a legal nurse consultant
The first step is to become a registered nurse or RN, and this is done by completing a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Next, the RN must get a nursing license in the state they’re currently in. As most legal nurse consultants do not possess any legal experience prior to becoming one, they can improve their legal knowledge by completing either a nurse consulting program or a paralegal program. They could also attend legal seminars or conferences, or work with lawyers.
Here are the things legal nurse consultants are expected to do:
- Critically review medical records
- Be highly-knowledgeable about the healthcare field
- Conduct thorough research on matters relevant to the case
Furthermore, to be a successful legal nurse consultant, one must have a thorough understanding of anatomy and physiology and be well versed in medical treatments and legal terminology. An extensive nursing and clinical experience must accompany this. At least 2,000 hours of experience in a hospital setting is recommended.
The nursing profession is a noble one and it is made more so when it supports the lawyer in their bid to ensure that justice is served. Becoming a legal nurse consultant is a lucrative career for you.