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Career Definition for a Legal Nurse Consultant
Since many legal industry professionals do not understand medical terminology or know how to read medical records, legal nurse consultants (LNCs) serve to bridge the gap between the medical and legal industries. Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who offer medical information to legal entities and professionals about medical-related cases. Expert advice may constitute identifying standards of care, reviewing medical records or preparing reports and summaries about injuries or illnesses.
|Education||2- or 4-year degree in nursing, registered nursing license, additional LNC training; voluntary certification available through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants|
|Job Skills||Detail orientation, communication skills, research skills, computer skills, marketing and advertising skills, networking skills|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$67,940 for all registered nurses|
|Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% increase for all registered nurses|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Legal nurse consultants must first become registered nurses (RNs). Aspiring RNs typically complete either a 2- or 4-year degree in nursing. After earning their RN license, nurses can complete a 6-week program in LNC training. Students take courses in legal terminology and the legal system, as well as study cases of medical malpractice. Additional courses may include ethics, criminal law, informed consent, the LNC's role, work environments and medical records.
Licensure and Certification
Registered nurses must be licensed by the state they work in. In most states, nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become licensed. Additionally, those wishing to work as LNCs may seek certification from a nationally recognized organization, such as the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
Legal nurse consultants should be detail-oriented and have good communication skills so that they may provide accurate information to legal professionals. They need the ability to conduct legal research using manual and computerized systems and to write up the results. Freelance LNCs may need marketing and advertising skills and the ability to network in order to find positions.
Career and Economic Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for all registered nurses, including legal nurse consultants, was $67,940 in May 2015. The BLS projects that jobs for registered nurses will increase at a much faster-than-average rate of 16% from 2014 to 2024.
Alternative Career Options
Outside of legal nurse consulting, think about these options in the legal and nursing fields:
Those more interested in the legal research and writing aspects of the legal nurse consultant career than the nursing aspect may prefer a career as a paralegal. Paralegals perform legal research in a variety of fields, or they may specialize in just one, such as healthcare. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs are available in paralegal studies, but paralegals can enter the career field in a variety of ways. Voluntary certification is available from professional organizations. In May 2015, paralegals and legal assistants earned a median annual salary of $48,810, according to the BLS. The BLS projects that this career field will grow at an average rate of 8% from 2014 to 2024.
Like legal nurse consultants, nurse practitioners begin their careers as registered nurses. The next step for nurse practitioners is to complete a master's degree or doctorate in advanced practice nursing. Nurse practitioners must be licensed, which requires passing a licensure exam. Additionally, certification in a specialized field, such as geriatric health or family health, is required by most states. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for nurse practitioners was $98,190 in May 2015. This career field is growing at a much faster-than-average rate. Jobs for nurse practitioners are projected to increase by 35% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS.