To begin a career as a legal nurse consultant it is necessary to be a registered nurse. Most nurses complete an associate's or bachelor's degree in nursing and they must have their registered nursing license. Legal nurse consultants may serve as expert witnesses in a legal proceeding involving nursing or act as a consultant to an attorney and advise them on the nursing profession; they may require additional training or voluntary experience in the field of legal studies.
Legal nurse consultants assist attorneys on matters concerning the nursing profession. They may be called upon to offer expert testimony on nursing care facilities, hospitals, or other areas. Educational requirements include a nursing degree and additional legal studies, which can be obtained by coursework or practical experience. Most legal nurse consultants also need registered nurse licensure. Voluntary certification is available through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
|Required Education||Associate's or bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||RN licensure and nursing experience; voluntary certification is available|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% (for registered nurses)|
|Average Salary (2015)*||$71,000 (for registered nurses)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Legal Nurse Consultant Job Description
Job duties vary depending upon the case and the responsibilities of the consultant. Legal nurse consultants review documents and conduct research on health care practices. Some work for law firms, hospitals, or consulting firms, while others are self-employed. When cases go to court or mediation, legal nurse consultants often provide expert testimony through deposition.
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People interested in becoming legal nurse consultants must obtain an RN license. This involves a minimum of a 2-year diploma or degree program and an examination.
Obtaining a Nursing Degree
Although it's possible to obtain a nursing diploma, the most common educational pathway to becoming a RN is to obtain either a two-year associate's degree or a four-year bachelor's degree in nursing. Associate of Science in Nursing programs, found mostly at community colleges, usually consist of four or five semesters of concentrated nursing curriculum and prerequisites. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing, found at four-year colleges and universities, provides a full scope of general education courses and electives plus the nursing education.
After graduating with a nursing degree or diploma, candidates may sit for the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Passage of this standardized test allows individuals to practice nursing in the U.S.
Legal Nurse Consultant-Specific Education
There is no specific required education beyond the RN license for becoming a legal nurse consultant. Some nursing schools and continuing education departments of colleges and universities offer courses in nurse-consulting; paralegal programs sometimes provide coursework in this area as well.
Certification, while not required, indicates additional education in the field. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), a professional membership organization, offers a program leading to certification as a certified legal nurse consultant.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to the field of legal nurse consulting, the BLS did project that the employment of registered nurses in general will likely grow by about 16% between 2014 and 2024, a rate faster than the average predicted for all occupations. The BLS also reported that the average salary of registered nurses as of May 2015 was $71,000.
Legal nurse consultants can play a vital role in legal proceedings involving the nursing profession. They may advise attorneys on case matters involving nursing practice, or be called to testify as an expert in their field. They're required to be a licensed registered nurse with experience in nursing, and may need to take additional training or gain volunteer experience in the legal field before pursuing a career as a legal nurse consultant.