Nurse Paralegal: Educational Requirements

Nurse paralegals require some formal education. Learn about the degree options, job duties and licensure requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

Nurse paralegals combine the expertise of a trained nurse with the legal knowledge of a paralegal. They investigate legal issues related to health insurance claims and medical lawsuits. Those interested in this career need to be a registered nurse and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses to enroll in a nurse paralegal certificate program.

Essential Information

Nurse paralegals investigate legal issues related to health insurance claims and malpractice lawsuits. With a combined understanding of the medical field and legal terminology, nurse paralegals can determine whether patients received the appropriate level of care or if medical professionals acted negligently. Most nurse paralegals review medical records and other legal documents in an office setting.

Required Education Completion of an associate's or bachelor's degree program in nursing (RN), or a diploma nursing (RN) program as well as a nurse paralegal certificate program
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (for Paralegals and Legal Assistants)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $48,810 (for Paralegals and Legal Assistants)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for a Nurse Paralegal

Most nurse paralegal certificate programs require applicants to be registered nurses (RNs). Educational requirements for becoming an RN usually include completing an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program in nursing. There are also some diploma programs that train individuals to become RNs, but these programs are difficult to find.

Before being accepted into a nursing degree program, some colleges and universities require students to complete prerequisite courses. Common prerequisites include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology and general psychology. After being accepted into a nursing program, degree coursework covers patient care, nursing procedures, child health nursing, adult health nursing, pharmacology and health assessment.

After completing nursing degree programs, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and gaining work experience as RNs, individuals can enroll in nurse paralegal certificate programs. Nurse paralegal programs are similar to regular paralegal programs since both require courses in legal terminology, legal writing, torts and contracts. Nurse paralegal programs differ in that they place emphasis on healthcare issues, including coursework in healthcare law, medical legal ethics, medical insurance law and malpractice law.

License Requirements for a Nurse Paralegal

Although paralegal licensure is not required, nurse paralegals must hold valid RN licenses. Eligibility requirements for RN licensure vary by state, but all states require applicants to pass the NCLEX-RN. The exam asks questions in three key nursing areas, including creating a safe and effective care environment, psychosocial integrity, and health promotion and maintenance.

Registered nurses must renew their licenses in accordance with state law. Some states require that nurses participate in approved continuing education coursework, while others require that nurses work a particular amount of hours within a given time frame.

Salary Information and Employment Outlook

As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants overall (including nurse paralegals) earned a median annual salary of $48,810 in May, 2015. Employment of all paralegals and legal assistants is expected to increase 8% from 2014-2024, according to the BLS.

Nurse paralegals are individuals who investigate legal issues involving health insurance claims and malpractice lawsuits, combining the experience and knowledge of a nurse with a paralegal. To enter this career they must be a registered nurse, pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, and enter a nurse paralegal certification program. Those entering this field may earn a median salary of $48,810 a year.

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