Learn about what a legal nurse consultant does, their role in the medical and legal fields, and how to become a legal nurse consultant.
The medical field often overlaps with the legal field; one such example is in the case of medical malpractice. Legal nurse consultants bridge the gap between these two worlds by translating medical terminologies or information for legal matters involving medical aspects in order to help lawyers, judges and jury members to process and understand them.
Their duties can include, but are not limited to, participating in client interviews; identifying, organizing and analyzing relevant medical records; attend independent medical examinations; serve as a nurse expert witness; identify applicable standards of care (medical malpractice cases); compose or analyze medical aspects of legal documents; educate lawyers and clients regarding pertinent medical issues; and, determine plaintiff’s future medical needs and associated costs.
Legal nurse consultants can work in a variety of settings, such as law firms, insurance companies, health care facilities, government agencies, and HMOs. Some legal nurse consultants are self-employed. These professionals are often called on to provide necessary support in medically-related litigation, such as medical malpractice, personal injury, long-term care litigation/elder law, product liability, toxic tort, workers’ compensation, risk management, life care planning, regulatory compliance, forensic/criminal cases, civil rights, employment discrimination, Medicare set-aside, and negligence.
How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
The road to becoming a legal nurse consultant begins with becoming a registered nurse. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are three educational pathways for becoming an RN: a nursing diploma program offered by hospitals, a two-year Associated in Science in Nursing degree, or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. Upon completion of an accredited nursing program, graduates will be eligible to sit for the NCLEX-RN, which awards a license for registered nurses.
While there are no specific educational requirements for becoming a legal nurse consultant beyond the RN degree and license, there are colleges and universities that offer training courses or certificate programs in nurse consulting through their continuing education departments. Most employers also require applicants to have a few years of experience as a practicing nurse.
Important Qualities for a Legal Nurse Consultant
Detail Oriented – Legal nurse consultants will have to go through various legal and medical documents and will need a keen eye for detail in order to provide the necessary support for their clients.
Communication Skills – As the medical expert in a legal scenario, legal nurse consultants will be responsible for interviewing witnesses or clients, educating lawyers and clients regarding relevant issues, or acting as an expert witness; hence, he or she must have excellent communication skills.
Critical Thinking – Analyzing relevant medical information is often one of the key functions fulfilled by a legal nurse consultant.
Legal Nurse Consultant Licenses, Certifications and Registrations
All registered nurses must have a valid RN license before they can obtain employment. Certification as a legal nurse consultant, while not required, indicates additional education in the field. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) recommends that registered nurses seek out certification in the field of nurse consulting, the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) program, to demonstrate their training and skills.