Now more than ever, nurses have so many exciting career opportunities and specialties to choose from! Registered nurses work in just about any career field imaginable these days, with new jobs being created every day. That’s honestly one of the things that excites me the most about my choice to pursue a degree in nursing! In this blog post, I want to talk about one of my favorite fields in nursing, one which you may have never even heard of… the legal nurse consultant!
What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
A legal nurse consultant is a licensed registered nurse who analyzes and evaluates medical records, charting, facts, and testimony related to a patient’s medical care and makes informed opinions related to the quality of medical care. The nurse consultant uses their knowledge and clinical experience to help with medical-legal cases, as well as serving as researchers and educators.
The LNC may work either full-time or part-time, and may work for an agency or independently. Some of the job setting choices include law firms (or LNC consulting firms), insurance companies, government agencies, and more. LNC’s who practice independently may have their own firm or even work from home! Some of the exciting areas of practice that the LNC may work with include:
- Personal injury cases.
- Worker’s compensation.
- Medical malpractice.
- Forensics and criminal cases.
- Employment discrimination.
- Civil rights.
What does the day-to-day job look like?
According to the AALNC website, the job duties of the legal nurse consultant may include:
- Conducting interviews of those involved in the case.
- identifying additional documents that may be relevant to the case and reviewing/analyzing those documents.
- Organize events into a timeline.
- Identify the proper standards of care in medical malpractice cases.
- Recruit expert witnesses for testimony.
- Evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the case.
- Educate clients and attorneys on relevant information.
- Prepare evidence and legal documents for trial.
- Case management, cost-of-care estimates, and identifying future medical needs and costs of the client.
- May serve as an expert witness during trial, however, not all LNC’s do.
How much money does a Legal Nurse Consultant make?
The simple answer is: it depends. There are many factors that determine how much the legal nurse consultant makes, such as the number of hours worked, how much the attorney or company is willing to pay (or has budgeted), the state you work in, and how much other professionals in the industry are charging. Additionally, LNC’s who serve as expert witnesses in trial demand a higher hourly wage than those who do not.
However, according to Nurse.org, consulting fees are estimated to be twice the hourly rate of a typical nursing salary in the local area. Other websites claim $75-$150/hour, and higher rates for expert witnesses going to trial.
How do I become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Of course, the first step to becoming an LNC is to become registered as a nurse! You can have any degree that leads to becoming a licensed registered nurse including ADN, BSN, and any advanced practice degrees. Once you’re a nurse, it’s time to gain some clinical experience! But don’t worry… there’s not one single nursing specialty that’s required to get your experience. Each specialty will benefit you in its own, unique way.
Okay, so you’ve got some experience... now what?
Next, we need to talk about the difference between the LNC certification program and a certificate of completion. To be clear, there is no formal education program or certification required to practice as a legal nurse consultant. However, some nurses choose to obtain these to show proof of their expertise, and some employers may prefer to work only with those who are certified.
So what’s the difference? A certificate of completion can be earned from a variety of places, such as some colleges and universities, professional organizations, and from other legal nurse consultants who have created their own programs. Official LNCC certification can only be earned from the ALNC Certification Board after successfully passing an exam. To be eligible to sit for the exam, the person must:
- Be an active, licensed registered nurse with a minimum of 5 years of experience.
- Provide evidence of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience in the past 5 years.
The complete detailed list of criteria is found here.
Where can I find more information about becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant?
- American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants – The website has tons of information, frequently asked questions, online resources, and free webinars you can watch.
- Youtube channels – check out LegalNurse and Janice Dolnick.
My information for this post came from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Head to their website to read more about this exciting career choice!