If you can’t decide between a legal or nursing career, you can enjoy both fields by becoming a legal nurse consultant. They help attorneys, prosecutors, judges, and jury members understand the world of medicine.
Because these nurses bridge the gap between medicine and the judicial system, they play an important role in the litigation process. Their responsibilities are numerous, and the top five are:
Reviewing Medical Records
Legal nurse consultants use their knowledge to determine if professional negligence occurred, and to summarize injuries and treatment. They also look to see if any records are missing or were tampered with.
When it is time to decipher a case, legal nurse consultants help attorneys understand the medical facts, timelines, treatments, medical terminology, and other necessary healthcare information. In addition, their training allows them to act as liaisons between attorneys, clients, and physicians that are part of the same case.
This is a big part of a legal consultant’s job. When investigating a case, they usually:
- Examine cases that involve abuse and fraud of government-funded agencies such as Medicaid and Medicare
- Look to see if there was misconduct on the part of a facility or individual medical worker
- Study disability and compensation claims in order to determine if they are warranted
When cases go to trail, legal nurse consultants usually need to prepare medical fact reports and summaries, treatment timelines, and graphic exhibits.
Testifying as an Expert Witness
Legal nurse consultants are often called to the stand during a trial to provide data, facts, and opinions based on the evidence.
Where Legal Nurse Consultants Work
- Consulting firms
- Government agencies
- Hospital risk management departments and HMOs
- Independent practices
- Insurance companies
- Law offices
Types of Cases
Legal nurse consultants work on many different types of cases. They include:
- Excessive use of force by law enforcement
- Elderly, child, or spousal abuse
- Narcotics possession
- Psychiatric defenses and psychiatric problems
Workers’ Compensation Cases
- Auto accidents
- Back injuries
- Cumulative trauma disorders
- Equipment and machinery related injuries
Environmental Cases and Toxic Torts
- Hazardous chemicals in the workplace
- Lead poisoning
- Oil spills
- Radiation and contamination
- Waste management and disposal
Products Liability Cases
- Children’s toys and products
- Consumer products such as appliances
- Hip implants
- Medications such as birth control pills
Personal Injury Cases
- Dog Bites
- Admiralty and maritime
- Premises liability such as slip and fall
You can obtain a two-year Associate of Science in Nursing degree or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree.
After graduation, you’ll need to earn a registered nurse license by sitting for the National Council Licensure Examination – Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN) administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.
Legal Nurse Consultant Training Program
Once you become a licensed registered nurse, you can complete a legal nurse consultant training program. Topics include forensic nursing, legal terminology, medical records review and analysis, trail preparation, and workers’ compensation investigations.
Certification is not mandatory, but it can help you find a job faster and increase your salary. In order to become a legal nurse consultant, you’ll need to sit for the exam administered by the American Board of Nurse Specialists. This certification is recognized by the American Association of Legal Nursing Consultants. In order to take the exam, you must:
- Hold a current and unrestricted license as a registered nurse
- Have a minimum of five years’ work experience as a registered nurse
Certification is valid for five years.
Job Outlook and Salary
According to the Bar Association, 25% of the 1 million practicing attorneys in the United States handle medical malpractice and personal injury cases. This means job growth should be high over the next decade.
Payscale.com reports the annual salary for a legal nurse consultant is around $80,000 annually.
This career is exciting and offers plenty of variety. If you would like to learn more about working as a legal nurse consultant, contact us.