Legal medical issues can be a complex web at the center of it all; acting as a liason between the various parties is a legal nurse consultant. They ensure that nurse departments at health facilities are following legal constraints and protocol, and they provide expert testimony during trial. These professionals usually hold at least an associate's degree and have a state nursing license.
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Legal nurse consultants act as liaisons between physicians, clients, and attorneys. They perform assessments on nursing and hospital facilities and provide expert testimony concerning the activities and duties associated with nursing and healthcare. Some are self-employed, while others work for consulting firms, hospital risk management departments, HMOs, and law firms. At minimum, a legal nurse consultant must be a registered nurse, which requires completion of an associate's degree and passing of the NCLEX-RN exam.
|Required Education||Associate's degree|
|Additional Requirements||State nursing license|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)*||16% for registered nurses|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$67,490 annually for registered nurses|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Job Duties of a Legal Nurse Consultant
Nurse consultants offer information and testimony for legal cases concerning personal injury, medical fraud, worker's compensation, risk management, and other areas. Job duties include reviewing documents, preparing exhibits lists, interviewing witnesses and health care professionals, assessing damage, and researching literature in the field in order to render opinions. They may be called upon to provide support not only at trials, but also during the discovery portion of the case, aiding at depositions or being deposed themselves.
Legal nurse consultants must first become registered nurses (RNs). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics describes three educational options for becoming an RN: a nursing diploma program offered by hospitals, a two-year Associate in Science in Nursing, or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Students may also pursue 'fast-track' nursing programs for people with bachelor's degrees in areas other than nursing, which typically take two years to complete.
After completing an accredited nursing program, graduates may sit for the NCLEX-RN. This is a standardized test which is the same in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and all U.S. territories. Passage of the NCLEX-RN awards the nursing license.
While there is no required course of study for becoming a legal nurse consultant, courses are available. Many legal nurse consultants have gotten started by working for attorneys, reviewing medical records or providing expert advice, and slowly building up a consulting practice.
Education programs for legal nurse consultants are offered by colleges, universities, non-profits, and for-profit businesses. Various departments within secondary schools offering programs include schools of nursing, paralegal programs, and continuing education departments. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), a non-profit organization founded by practicing legal nurse consultants, administers an educational program called the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC). The program is accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.
Salary Info and Job Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of registered nurses as a group is expected to increase faster than average by about 16% between 2014 and 2024, although more specialized providers may have more job opportunities.The median salary earned by RNs in 2015 was $67,490, as reported by the BLS.
If your interests cross at the intersections of health and law then you might want to consider becoming a nurse consultant. They need a strong understanding of both medical procedures and protocols and the laws that encompass them. If you're interested in this career, the first step is to obtain your associate's degree in nursing.