Legal Nurse Consultant
A career in legal nurse consultation is a relatively flexible opportunity for individuals who have substantial experience as a nurse. Legal nurse consultants can make a respectable amount of money for offering their experience to legal cases, either on a part-time or full-time basis. It is an excellent option for working nurses who would like to supplement their income, as well as retirees. Interested current or former nurses can choose to offer legal consultation services through an appropriate agency or on an individual basis.
Healthcare is a complex system with very strict regulations in place, which means attorneys won’t always have sufficient knowledge about medical protocols when handling a medical malpractice lawsuit or similar case involving a healthcare provider. This is where a legal nurse consultant comes in. They use their experience in healthcare to help attorneys understand regulations and protocols so that the attorney will have a better foundational knowledge of healthcare obligations in scenarios related to their case.
Legal nurse consultants must have at least an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. More important is how much on-the-job experience they have. Legal nurse consultants need to know the ins and outs and expectations in the nursing profession, as well as be able to analyze the performance of other healthcare providers.
The specifics of a legal nurse consultant’s duties will vary based on the case they are consulting on. However, generally speaking, their typical day-to-day duties may include:
- Reviewing medical records: The nurse consultant will review medical records related to the case to determine whether proper measures were taken and were accurately recorded.
- Identifying patient needs: The nurse consultant will determine how a patient should have been cared for to decide whether they received appropriate care.
- Assessing patient care: The nurse consultant will analyze the care that a patient did receive to determine whether it was appropriate for their needs and the situation.
- Communicating with legal and healthcare professionals: Nurse consultants need to speak to a wide variety of legal and healthcare professionals, as well as bridge the gap between them.
- Taking inventory of evidence: Nurse consultants will review what medical evidence there is on hand and what it signifies.
- Preparing documentation: Nurse consultants will prepare relevant documentation relating to medical care, such as a timeline of care.
- Preparing testimony: Nurse consultants will need to prepare for court appearances, as they may appear as expert witnesses.
- Holding patient interviews: Nurse consultants may need to sit in on patient interviews to gain more information about the care the patient received.
- Doing additional research: Nurse consultants may not know everything they need to for any given case right off the bat, and therefore may need to conduct additional research.
- Attending medical examinations: Nurse consultants may attend medical examinations to glean more information about patient needs or the consequences of their care.
- Estimating cost of care and damages: A nurse consultant may help the legal team determine what the overall cost of care was or what the cost of damages relating to care are.
- Revising legal documentation: Nurse consultants may review legal documentation containing medical information to confirm its accuracy.
A legal nurse consultant must be a registered nurse. Therefore, the education credentials for a legal nurse consultant depend on the requirements to become a registered nurse in your state. Typically, registered nurses must hold an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) which means this will be the minimum requirement to pursue a career as a legal nurse consultant as well. However, further education in the nursing field, such as a master’s degree, may make you a more competitive job candidate and improve your ability to be recognized as an expert witness.
Certifications for Legal Nurse Consultants
Again, the certifications you will need to be a legal nurse consultant will depend on what certifications registered nurses are required to hold in your state. However, these certifications will also depend on your specialization, such as pediatrics, addiction, critical care. If you hold a certification that relates strongly to a legal case, you may be a more competitive candidate to act as a legal nurse consultant for that case.
For example, a registered nurse with certification in critical care may be an ideal candidate to act as a legal nurse consultant for a case where a patient was neglected after being admitted to an emergency room. In that situation, legal nurse consultants may find it beneficial to receive certification that commonly applies to legal cases or commonly apply to the types of cases that they would like to act as a consultant for.
Nursing (Prelicensure) – B.S.
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An online BSN degree program for registered nurses (RNs) seeking...
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There is a wide range of hard and soft skills that are ideal for a career as a legal nurse consultant, including:
- Attention to detail
- Work ethic
- Critical thinking
- Understanding of medical records
- Understanding of legal documentation
- Knowledge of healthcare regulations
- Knowledge of healthcare protocols
How Much Do Legal Nurse Consultants Make?
Government entities such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics do not report on the salaries of legal nurse consultants. However, according to Payscale, the median hourly pay for legal nurse consultants was approximately $49 (roughly $102,000 annually) as of March of 2021. For comparison, the BLS reports that registered nurses had a median hourly wage of $35 (about $72,800 a year) in 2019. However, the salaries of legal nurse consultants can vary widely depending on factors such as how often they work in that capacity, what entity they work for, and job competition in their area.
What Is the Projected Job Growth?
There are no concrete reports on the job outlook for legal nurse consultants, as the career can be approached in so many different ways. However, the BLS reports that demand for RNs was expected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029; and lawsuits that involve medical matters are not likely to go away anytime soon. As such, it is fairly safe to assume job outlook should remain relatively stable for legal nurse consultants for the foreseeable future.
Where Do Legal Nurse Consultants Work?
Legal nurse consultants may operate on an independent basis or through an organization such as an insurance agency or legal firm. The entities that they work for and their contractual obligations to those entities can vary widely.