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. The median salary for an advanced nurse practitioner in 2017 was $110,930.1
Legal Nursing Training and Courses
Most legal nursing professionals first complete a nursing degree to develop a foundation in biology, physiology, health sciences, and health policy. Legal nursing students build on these skills through post-graduate certificate or degree programs that focus on related law, criminology, business, and policy courses. Successful graduates will be able to understand nursing practice in the context of law and policy and be able to provide sound advice in legal matters. Interested individuals without nursing qualifications or undergraduate degrees may pursue a legal nursing certificate that focuses on paralegal skills necessary for the healthcare field.
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
Traditional Legal Nursing Degree Programs
The Legal Nurse Consulting program at Duke University is a post-degree certificate open to registered nurses. This program prepares students to analyze complex healthcare issues, such as malpractice, personal injury, and worker's compensation. The curriculum includes six modules covering legal and business theory, case studies, and practical applications. Classes are taught by experienced legal nurse consultants and meet one evening per week for 14 weeks to accommodate working professionals. This program does not lead to a degree, but can be applied towards continuing education credits for nursing registration. This program is also available as a self-paced, online program that gives students up to six months to complete. This may be a good fit for busy working professionals or students located outside of the area. Online students must also have current nursing registration in order to apply.
The Delaware Law School at Widener University offers a Legal Nurse Consultant Certificate with an optional concentration in forensic nursing. The program includes 24 credits covering legal research, writing, and ethics and prepares students for a diverse range of career paths and possible employment opportunities. The forensic nursing concentration requires eight additional credits and further develops the student's ability to provide expert advice in public proceedings. Both programs are very flexible and can accommodate full-time and part-time students and offer online and evening courses, although at least 10 credits must be completed on-campus. The program also includes a mentorship component that matches students with practicing legal nursing consultants to gain practical experience. Applicants must have a degree in nursing and at least three years of work experience is recommended.
Online 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 underserved and non-traditional populations under the supervision of a faculty advisor. Students who graduate from 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.
The University of Georgia's Center for Continuing Education offers legal nurse consultant training for licensed RNs and physician's assistants (PAs). A Certificate of Completion (worth 4.2 Continuing Education Units (CEUs)) is awarded upon successful completion of the program, which requires a score of 70% or greater on all assignments and the final written examination. The coursework is delivered fully online, and course topics covered include ethics, standards of care, medical malpractice, licensure, criminal law, complex litigation, and the role of the LNC in the litigation process. The coursework prepares graduates to sit for the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) exam, which is an optional certification independent of this course.
Legal Nursing Job Description
Legal nursing professionals typically work in legal settings using their healthcare knowledge to advise legal professionals. For example, 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. 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.
If you have ever wondered what jobs can you get with a legal nursing degree, here is a list of some related opportunities:
- Correctional Nurse
- Forensic Nurse
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Liability Assessor
- Litigation Nurse
- Medical Record Reviewer
- Personal Injury Assessor
- Risk Management Specialist
- Worker's Compensation Assessor
Legal Nursing Professional Certification
Legal nursing professionals do not require certification to work in this field, although nurse licensure is typically necessary both to enter a legal nursing program and to find work in the field. Legal nursing certification is offered through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants for individuals with at least 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience.
Legal Nursing Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't provide salary data for legal nurses but does report that advanced practice nurses earned a median annual salary of $110,930 as of May 2017.1 Employment growth for advanced practice nurses is projected at 31% through 2026.1 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. In contrast, paralegals earned a median salary of $50,410 in 2017 and had a lower projected growth rate, at 15%.2 Legal nurse consultants, however, would likely be able to command a higher pay rate than paralegals due to their specialized knowledge in the healthcare field.
- American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC): A professional association for legal nurse consultants that provides career development opportunities and certification.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Do I need to be certified to work as a legal nursing consultant?
Answer: No, you do not need to be certified as a legal nursing consultant, although certification is available through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Most legal nursing consultants are registered nurses (RNs) or advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), but you should check the job description or hiring agent for the position for which you are applying.
Question: Can I get promoted faster with a legal nursing certificate?
Answer: Obtaining a legal nursing certificate will not guarantee you will be promoted faster, although it may help you compete with other qualified candidates. This is a detail-oriented career path and your greatest asset will be your performance record.
1. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm
2. O*NET OnLine, Paralegals and Legal Assistants: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/23-2011.00