Legal Nursing Degree
Degree programs in legal nursing are typically found at the post-graduate level and are designed for students who have at least a few years of experience working as registered nurses (RNs). Students pursuing a legal nursing degree build upon the foundations they’ve already achieved with either an associate’s or bachelor’s in nursing, learning the intersections between their knowledge of medicine and medical terminology and legal circumstances. Legal nursing consultants (LNCs) provide expert medical advice to those involved in legal actions.
Examples of courses in a legal nursing degree curriculum include:
- Introduction to Legal Nurse Consulting
- Legal Theory and Fundamentals
- Legal Issues in Nursing Practice
- Case Analysis for Long Term Care and Medical Malpractice
- Case Analysis for Personal Injury and Worker’s Compensation
- Legal Research & Writing
- Litigation and Trial Preparation
- Courtroom Testimony by the Health Care Specialist
- Establishing and Organizing a Practice as a Legal Nurse Consultant
- Legal and Healthcare Ethics
Profiles of Legal Nursing Degree Programs
Nova Southeastern University offers a Master of Health Science: Health Law Concentration through a collaboration between its College of Health Sciences and Shepard Broad Law School. All courses in the curriculum are offered through distance learning, with one residential institute of up to two days required on the Fort Lauderdale campus for program completion. Specialized health law courses such as Legal Research Methods and Reasoning, Risk Management, Legal and Ethical Issues in Healthcare, and Law Accreditation/Licensing reflect the core focus of students enrolled in this degree program. A culminating practicum, during which students earn five credit hours, encourages students to apply their knowledge through the design of interventions for under-served or non-traditional populations under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Students who graduate this interdisciplinary post-professional program are prepared to apply their knowledge of the legal aspects of healthcare and pursue careers at the intersections of healthcare and law.
Post University awards an online Legal Nurse Consulting Certificate upon completion of its specialized 30 credit hour legal nurse consulting program. Certificate courses include Civil Litigation Practice, Legal Research, Personal Injury Law, and Legal Writing. Students also complete a 120-clock hour legal studies internship in a law office or government agency. Graduates are prepared to professionally and ethically apply their legal and medical knowledge to researching legal issues, analyzing medical records, and writing informed opinions, among other core consulting tasks. All courses are offered online in eight-week modules, with six module start dates per year. On average, students complete the certificate in 17 months. Admission to the certificate program is open to all students who have earned at least a high school diploma or GED. Tutoring services and advisement are offered to enrolled students at no additional charge. Post University’s online programs have consistently been ranked among the best in the country by US News.
Job Opportunities for Legal Nursing Degree Program Graduates
There are a number of opportunities for LNCs. The principal opportunity is consulting with attorneys, either in criminal or civil cases. A legal nursing degree holder can aid attorneys in understanding and presenting medical facts that will help them better portray the suffering of a client pursuing personal injury damages, for example. Legal nurse consultants can also work with insurance companies who are developing new policies or attempting to decide whether or not treatments are valid and should be covered by a current health insurance plan. According to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, specializations may include nurse expert witness, insurance industry consultant, forensic consultant, and risk manager.
Career Outlook and Salary for Legal Nurses
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t provide data on legal nurse salary but reports that advanced practice nurses earned a median annual salary of $104,740 as of May 2015.1 Employment growth for advanced practice nurses, also known as nurse practitioners, is projected at 31% through 2024.1 One reason for this positive outlook is the growing demand for nurses who have advanced education and are able to perform services that fall between those traditionally delegated to registered nurses and doctors.
Additional Legal Nurse Resources
American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants – A professional association for legal nurse consultants that provides career development opportunities.
Online Legal Nursing Degrees and Related School Programs
1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm