A legal nurse consultant is someone with a background as a registered nurse who works in the legal side of the medical field. LNCs are often consulted to research and report on how the medical facts of a case might be looked at from a legal standpoint. For this reason, LNCs must have a firm grasp on both the legal and science aspects of the healthcare industry.
Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) are professionals who work to assist a variety of legal agencies, including law firms, government offices, and insurance companies. A legal nurse consultant has experience, or has undergone rigorous study, to become a registered nurse. Through their education and experiential background, LNCs provide an important service related to analyzing health care settings, issues endemic to a region, and results for those in legal and healthcare roles.
It’s also a career path with potential growth and a higher possible salary range, which makes it enticing to registered nurses who are also interested in the legal system. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t offer specifics on LNC positions, the median wage for registered nurses in 2020 was about $75,330 per year. The RN field also has a projected career growth rate of about 7% through 2029, which is faster than the national average.
LNCs are considered vital in order to bridge the legal and healthcare communities. In general, LNCs work to advise different organizations or law firms on healthcare topics as they relate to personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, toxic torts, and criminal law. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, it’s important to know what a legal nurse consultant’s role entails, how to become one, and what the job outlook is for legal nurse consultants in the future.
Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks
Legal nurse consultants’ responsibilities vary depending on the employer and may include:
- Attend medical reviews by independent medical exams
- Determine a plaintiff’s long-term medical requirements and estimated costs for that care
- Conduct client interviews
- Draft legal documents in medical cases under the guidance of an attorney
- Educate attorneys and paralegals about healthcare issues, and nurses as it relates to ongoing cases
- Research professional literature in healthcare
- Review cases to identify strengths and weaknesses
- Testify in court as an expert witness
- Prepare chronologies or timelines for medical records
- Work with expert witnesses
- Work with lawyers to plan healthcare litigation
Legal Nurse Consultant Degree Requirements
To become certified as a legal nurse consultant, you’ll first have to obtain your registered nursing degree. To do this, you’ll need to complete at least 120 credit hours in a nursing program at an accredited college or university, and will also need to complete a certain number of clinical hours to graduate.
After you have met the education requirements, you’ll need to study for and pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to be able to practice as a registered nurse. The requirements for the NCLEX-RN differ state by state. During your time as an RN, you’ll need to be able to read and understand medical records, know the ins-and-outs of the healthcare industry, and be able to research and report on medical issues.
Once you’ve gained about 2,000 of experience in the healthcare industry, you can start the testing process for legal nurse consultant certifications. There are multiple ways you can go about this. You can complete a nurse consulting program, the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification, or a paralegal program.
Steps for Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant
In order to become a legal nurse consultant, you’ll need to gain experience as a working nurse before you can take on this role. This experience is a vital part of the equation because as a legal nurse consultant, you’ll need to be able to review information and understand documents such as medical records, have a significant amount of medical knowledge and experience, and research information for cases. Typically, LNCs can find work within government agencies, insurance companies, law firms, and forensic agencies.
If you are interested in becoming a legal nurse consultant, you should:
- Acquire the education and/or experience required to become a registered nurse in your state.
- Become certified as a registered nurse.
- Work as a registered nurse.
- Develop knowledge and experience in specialized areas as a registered nurse such as neurology, rehabilitation, or orthopedics.
- Obtain your master’s or doctorate degree (optional).
- Complete the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification, a nurse consulting program, or a paralegal program.
Legal Nurse Consultant Job Training
Legal nurse consultants generally receive on the job training, but that isn’t the only way to acquire experience in order to become an LNC. Training often depends on the type of position you’re hired for.
For example, a law firm would require you to approach your position from a legal standpoint, whereas a job at a forensic agency may require you to focus on scientific findings. Both roles require different types of training.
Some prospective legal nurse consultants also complete internships, working with experienced people in the profession to gain more knowledge about how LNCs work with their clients before practicing their own consulting. To obtain your Legal Nurse Consultant Certification (LNCC) you’ll need to go through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) and American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB). The LNCC is the only certification of its kind to be accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
Candidates must have a strong understanding of anatomy and physiology, medical treatments, and legal terminology. Prospective consultants should have extensive nursing and clinical experience. Legal nurse consultants with a minimum of 2,000 hours of experience in the field may want to apply for the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification (LNCC), issued by the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board.
Possible Job Titles for This Career
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Nurse Consultant
Legal Nurse Consultant Salary and Job Outlook
The salary for a legal nurse consultant often varies depending on the employment type. Salaries are typically based on experience, geographic location, and caseload. Legal nurse consultants sometimes set up their own consulting practice and charge law firms hourly rates for their services. Unfortunately, the BLS doesn’t offer career data for legal nurse consultants, but it does offer insight on a career as a registered nurse (RN). As of 2020, RNs earned a median salary of about $75,330 per year. Positions for registered nurses are projected to grow by about 7% through 2029.1
According to the BLS, job growth for RNs will increase as a result of more focus on preventive care; increasing rates of chronic conditions, including diabetes and obesity; and the Baby Boomer generation being in need of healthcare services. The job outlook for legal nurse consultants is influenced by the number of legal cases related to medications and medical practices that make their way through courtrooms and in front of government agencies. The healthcare field is expected to grow faster than any other sector of the US economy in the next decade, which influences the number of malpractice lawsuits.
Interested in a career similar to an LNC? Check out these related careers:
Frequently Asked Questions
What does a legal nurse consultant do?
Are legal nurse consultants in demand?
Yes. Healthcare is one of the fastest growing and most lucrative industries. As healthcare expands, so will the need for medical legal experts.
How do I get started as a legal nurse consultant?
In order to become a legal nurse consultant, you’ll first need to become a registered nurse. Once you’ve obtained your license to become a registered nurse and gained a significant amount of experience in the medical field, then you can pursue your Legal Nurse Consultant Certification, accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties.
How much does a legal nurse consultant make?
While the BLS doesn’t offer specific data on legal nurse consultant positions, it does offer insight on registered nurses. In 2020, registered nurses earned a median wage of about $75,330 annually.
What degrees are similar to a legal nurse consultant?
If you’re interested in medicine, science, and criminal justice, you may want to consider the other following degrees: computer forensics degree, criminal psychology degree, criminal justice associate degree, and digital forensics degree. Potential criminal justice associate’s degree jobs include police officer, probation officer, bailiff, and correctional officer positions.
- International & American Association of the Legal Nurse Industry: An online community that connects legal nurse consultants with others in the legal nursing industry.
- National Alliance of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants: A nationwide association that offers training and certification to legal nurse consultants.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Registered Nurses: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm
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