Certified Legal Nurse Consultant
|Degree Level||Associate or bachelor's degree|
|Experience||5 years of experience in general nursing; 2,000 hours of experience in legal nurse consulting for certification|
|Licensure/Certification||State nursing license (RN) required; legal nurse consultant certification required by many employers|
|Key Skills||Empathy, close attention to detail; organization and problem-solving skills; familiarity with medical records systems; knowledge of medical-legal terminology and medical tools; comfortable testifying in court if needed|
|Salary||$72,510 (2016 median salary for legal nurse consultants)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online, PayScale.com (July 2015), The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), CareerBuilder.com Job notices (December 2012)
Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) are registered nurses who provide medical counsel on legal matters. They act as liaisons between attorneys and the medical profession. Legal nurse consultants assist lawyers by offering insight into medical issues and accepted practice standards. LNCs often review medical records and reports for cases that involve personal injury, negligence, workers' compensation, malpractice or wrongful death. These professionals may also explain complex medical issues to clients or act as expert witnesses.
LNCs may be employed by insurance companies or legal firms, and they may be required to travel in some cases. Nurse consultants usually enjoy a set schedule during regular business hours. As with all nurses, occasional contact with patients may expose them to infectious diseases. Legal nurse consultants may exhibit empathy, close attention to detail, organizational skills and problem-solving skills. They also need familiarity with medical records systems and knowledge of medical-legal terminology and medical tools. Additionally, they must be comfortable testifying in court if needed.
Payscale.com reported that legal nurse consultants made a median annual salary of $72,510 as of January 2016. Let's look at the steps involved to become a certified legal nurse consultant.
Become a Registered Nurse
Step 1: Become a registered nurse. There are three types of nursing programs that can prepare aspiring registered nurses. Nursing diploma programs are offered by some teaching hospitals, nursing associate's degree programs are granted by two-year community colleges and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs are four-year university programs.
Common courses in nursing programs include medical terminology, human anatomy, psychology, human physiology, nutrition and chemistry. Students might complete clinical sessions in various medical departments, such as pediatrics, oncology, surgery or the emergency room. Some also participate in clinical training outside of hospitals. This training might take place at elderly-care facilities, community clinics and public health departments.
Step 2: Gain licensure. After graduating from a nursing program, individuals must complete licensing procedures in accordance with their state laws. All nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for registered nurses (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed RNs. Besides passing the NCLEX-RN, some states have additional requirements.
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Gain Nursing Experience
Step 3: Gain nursing experience. Applicants for certification as an LNC must have experience in clinical nursing. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) requires that applicants to meet several criteria, including five years of practice as a registered nurse. Newly licensed registered nurses often start off as staff nurses at hospitals. Registered nurses can also work for doctors' offices, home healthcare services or government agencies.
Early in their careers, RNs might opt to choose a field specialty. By choosing to specialize, nurses will become extremely familiar with the particular needs of various patient populations. Specific field knowledge may also prove useful when becoming a certified LNC, especially if clients are looking for consultants with a particular nursing background.
Complete an LNC Training Program
Step 4: Complete a legal nurse consultant training program. Individuals can complete legal nurse consultant training courses or certificate programs. Most programs accept only registered nurses; students need a clinical nursing background to understand the course materials. Topics covered include medical records review and analysis, legal terminology, forensic nursing, workers' compensation investigations and trial preparation. Students also might learn about the practical side of becoming an LNC, such as finding clients and marketing LNC services.
Some legal nurse consulting certificate programs offer internship opportunities. Student interns spend time working with experienced LNCs or attorneys. During internships, students gain a better understanding of reviewing medical documents for trials. They also learn about the relationships between LNCs and their clients, which can be helpful in finding employment.
Step 5: Become certified. Certification is not required for registered nurses to work as LNCs, but having this credential demonstrates experience, training and expertise. The AALNC requires certification applicants to prove that they have completed at least 2,000 hours of LNC services during the past five years and to pass an exam. Topics on the exam might include elder law, personal injury, risk management, medical malpractice and workers' compensation laws.
Nursing license renewal requirements vary by state, but many states require that registered nurses complete professional development or continuing education coursework. There are two options for LNC certification renewal. Every five years, applicants can either complete 60 units of continuing education coursework or they can retake certification exams.
In summary, aspiring legal nurse consultants must first complete the education and licensure requirements to become registered nurses. Then they must gain nursing experience complete LNC coursework. Voluntary certification is available after they've worked in the LNC field for at least five years.