Legal Nurse Consultant: Career Guide
Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) provide assistance to a variety of professionals in law firms, government offices, and insurance companies. A legal nurse consultant has training as a registered nurse, and through that strong educational and experiential background, provides an important service related to analyzing health care facts, issues, and outcomes for those in the legal and healthcare professions. In fact, legal nurse consultants are considered liaisons between the legal and healthcare communities and advise on such areas as personal injury, product liability, medical malpractice, toxic torts, and criminal law. This guide explains what legal nurse consultants do, how to become one, and the job outlook for legal nurse consultants in the future. Legal nurse consultants may own their own businesses or be employed by insurance companies, government agencies, law firms, forensics labs, or the legal departments of businesses or health care organizations.
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
Steps for Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants must first become a registered nurse (RN). Becoming an RN requires an associate's degree or a bachelor's degree, sometimes in addition to clinical experience. RNs must also earn a nursing license in their state. Most legal nurse consultants do not have legal experience prior to entering into legal consulting. Prospective consultants may obtain the necessary legal background in one of several ways, according to the American Association for Legal Nurse Consultants, including by completing a nurse consulting program or a paralegal program, attending legal seminars, or working with attorneys. Legal nurse consultants must also:
- Be able to critically review information, such as medical records
- Pay close attention to detail
- Possess significant medical knowledge
- Read, research, and report relevant case information
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.
- Find and apply for a job as a registered nurse.
- Undergo a background check and drug test.
- Be interviewed.
- Get hired as a legal nurse consultant.
- Be trained on the job once hired.
Legal Nurse Consultant Job Training
Legal nurse consultants generally receive on the job training. What that training entails depends on the hiring organization. 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.
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. The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide specific data for legal nurse consultants, but it does report that registered nurses earned a median salary of $71,730 per year in 2018.1 Positions for registered nurses are projected to grow by 15% through 2026.1 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.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is a formal legal nursing program mandatory to practicing as a legal nurse consultant?
Answer: No. Some aspiring consultants opt to complete a formal program by some do not. Some gain the necessary experience through on the job training with attorneys and others in the medical/ legal field.
Question: How do I know if I'm eligible to take the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Exam?
Answer: You must have a current registered nurse's license, at least five years of experience as a registered nurse, and proof that you have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours in legal nurse consulting during the previous three years.
Question: What is the typical work schedule for new legal nurse consultants?
Answer: New legal consultants generally start by working part time while continuing to practice as an RN to gain more experience before moving to full-time work or opening their own practice.
Question: Is continuing education required?
Answer: Because the legal and nursing professions are constantly evolving, legal nurse consultants must complete some continuing education, such as formal coursework or individual seminars.
- 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