Legal nurse consulting (LNC) is a niche field in which experienced registered nurses (RNs) draw upon medical expertise to consult on healthcare-related legal cases. Online degrees aren't available in this field, but graduate certificates are offered through traditional colleges and universities. These certificate programs emphasize the philosophical, ethical and theoretical law practices as related to the healthcare field, and typically include a practicum.
Some distance-learning programs may award college credit at the graduate level; however, applicants must already have a bachelor's degree. Other schools offer online legal nurse consulting certificates through their continuing education departments. In these cases, students may be able to follow a more self-paced format to earn professional development -- but not college -- credits. Regardless of the program type, prospective students must be RNs and submit licensure verification.
Master's Certificate in Legal Nurse Consulting
This online graduate certificate program focuses on the practices and principles of conducting legal nursing research, interpretation of legal documents, and common issues related to a medical setting. In addition to distance learning classes, programs may require a practicum that allows students to build real-world experience under the supervision of a legal professional.
The online curriculum typically follows the same syllabus as a LNC campus-based program; however, classes are delivered through flexible online course management tools. Distance learners can access lectures, presentations, assignments and other resources at a time that's convenient for them, provided they meet due dates. Virtual classrooms usually feature ways to interact with peers and instructors as well.
Typical curriculum for this certificate program may include the following classes:
- Legal Nurse Consultant Introduction
- Personal Injury Law
- Healthcare Ethics
- Medical Research
- Civil Practice
To be eligible for certification, graduates must possess current RN licensure and have five years of RN experience along with 2,000 hours of LNC experience. Upon completion of a graduate-level program, certificate holders are qualified to take a certification exam offered by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) to become legal nurse consultant certified (LNCC); however, this certification isn't required to work in the field.
Legal nurse consultants are eligible for positions in hospitals, government agencies, law firms and insurance companies. They may also be self-employed and work as independent contractors for law firms and insurance companies. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), career opportunities for RNs, including legal nurse consultants, are expected to be excellent for the 2014-2024 period, with jobs growing in the nursing field faster than average and an increasing number of legal cases related to drug and healthcare issues (www.bls.gov). Wage compensation for legal nurse consultants varies greatly depending experience and position according to the AALNC (www.aalnc.org).
Graduate degree programs in legal nurse consulting aren't commonly available. However, students can gain college credit or study towards a certificate via a school's continuing education department.