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Attorneys hire Legal Nurse Consultants to help them win or disregard legal cases. Cases include medical malpractice suits, negligence, personal injuries, workers compensation claims, product liability or ANY cases involving health or injury issues.
Legal Nurse Consultants use their nursing experience to review and analyze patient’s medical records to see what happened and whose fault is it from a medical standpoint. Did the healthcare providers respond promptly? Has the patients’ medical file been tampered with? These questions are what the Legal Nurse Consultant works diligently to investigate. They research and document their findings within lengthy written reports. Therefore, some may say you can view a Legal Nurse Consultant as detective slash nurse.
Degree needed to practice: Bachelors Degree in Nursing
License required: Registered Nursing (RN).
Certification Available: Certification is available from the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board
How much do Legal Nurse Consultants earn? The Median annual salary is $67,490*
What does a Legal Nurse Consultant do?
As a Legal Nurse Consultant, you will begin an exciting career that can you offer you a chance to work in-between two worlds the legal and healthcare field. With your nursing skills, education, and background, you will be of great service and value for attorneys, healthcare organizations, government agencies, insurance companies and more!
Many times the Legal Nurse Consultant will be involved and play a part in legal cases from beginning to end. Their role is to bridge the gap between the nursing field and legal field to help non-medical participants understand the real facts, and organize it in a chronologically organized manner.
Attorneys regularly hire the Legal Nurse Consultant. To review cases that may have a substantial amount of medical files or cases that have unusual circumstances. Lawyers prefer to hire nurses or physicians to review medical records due to costs. Legal Nurse Consultants are more cost effective in return making their presence more valuable. Additionally, they have a strong understanding of patient admission procedures.
As a Legal Nurse Consultant, you will have several career options, depending on which organization you work for it will dictate the scope of work you perform.
Attorneys and organizations will hire you to examine patient medical records. You will read every page and question everything line by line word by word. With paying close attention to the timing of events,
- When did the patient arrive?
- How soon did a nurse see the patient?
- Do the patient’s symptoms match the diagnosis provided?
- What medication was given to the patient? If so what was the dosage?
- Was the patient discharged too early?
- If so by who, and how many years of experience does that physician or nurse practitioner have?
- Does this doctor or nurse have a history of other patient malpractice claims?
The reason why the timing of events is so important is that some conditions such as a patient having symptoms of a heart attack or other conditions could mean the difference between life and death. This fact also is known as, “Preventable deaths.” According to the Journal of Patient Safety, 444,000 people die annually from related medical errors.
So what do these errors look like?
These medical errors can vary. For example, one medical error has been hospital surgical items left behind in the patient’s body. Medical errors could include a surgical sponge or sponges (yes more than one) left in the patient’s body.
This is called, “A retained foreign body.” These situations are very harmful to the patient and cause a massive infection; the body starts to reject it. The sponge will also move and travel, the sponge may be located within the abdomen and can travel up to your lungs or anywhere else. The sponge can pierce body organs. The body will slowly poison itself and slowly kill the patient’s organs or in some worse kill them.
Your job will be to spot ALL medical errors, discrepancies, sloppy documentation or potential medical file tampering that deviates (strays) from the standard of health care practices. You may create presentations to help to demonstrate important points and research relevant facts or contribute to identifying missing medical records.
Through your research, you will provide medical research to support your points and provide your unbiased nurse opinion in regards to the causation of the patient’s injury. As you gather your research, you will help to educate the now client and attorney of your findings. In cases, you may be called to act as a testifying expert.
What are the Legal Nurse Consultant Job Duties:
- Your job will include screening medical cases to help the attorney determine if a case is worth pursuing. Screening medical cases helps lawyers save valuable time and resources.
- Review and understand all hospital policies and procedures
- Some days you will need to locate experts who can support the case, such as an anesthesiologist that can offer expert medical opinions
- Perform medical research. You will reference books and nursing journals etc
- You will review medical files and compare it to nursing standards of care
- Provide medical record summaries that support with facts. Document your nursing opinions of your findings
- Your job will be creating in-depth reports that based on scientific discoveries to help the attorney develop a persuasive case
- Add any medical deposition questions that may be beneficial for the attorney to ask
- Locate and interview the client to gather more information to help formulate a better timeline of events that took place during the patient’s visit. The meeting will be done under the direction of the attorney to help find the truth within the case
Once the Legal Nurse Consultant gathers all of their research they will then proceed to formulate their written report. These reports you may offer may be verbal, outlines, timeline of events, chronological order, narrative or calendar.
They also can make these reports in a visual manner to help jurors understand a timeline of events that all non-medical parties can know. You will present these document reports most times created electronically, can range from 15 to 50 pages, and can take more than 50+ hours to prepare.
Who will hire me where do Legal Nurse Consultants work?
As a Legal Nurse Consultant, you can work for a law firm or have your independent practice. Many Legal Nurse Consultants work for law firms, government agencies, hospitals in risk management departments, insurance companies.
You can choose to work full or part time. If you work for a law firm, you can work as an in-house staff Legal Nurse Consultant will have a regular set of hours and pay, however, you will not be able to testify as an expert witness. This would create a conflict of interest.
Not to mention the excellent benefit of becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant is you can run your own consulting business. You will be independent and can decide how much or how little you want to work. This option can be lucrative because not only will be paid for producing the reports but also you can testify as an expert witness and earn hundreds of dollars per an hour. This route is for you if you enjoy freedom and independence.
What education will I need to become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
To become a Legal Nurse Consultant you must first earn your nursing license. There are three common ways to become a Registered Nurse (RN). The quickest way is with a two-year Associates Degree from a community college. The second way that will give you more career options as well the most pay is earning a four-year Bachelor Degree.
Within both of your nursing programs, you will have to attend many hours of a clinical rotation to gain hands-on experience. This hands-on experience will be based upon concepts you learn within your theory portion of your nursing program.
Once you complete school, both programs above will allow you to qualify to take your state exam NCLEX-RN to be an RN.
The last route you could take is enrolling in a hospital diploma nursing program. Applying and being in enrolled into a diploma nursing programs are a bit difficult to find. Diploma nursing programs are slowly fading out does to the limited credit transferability it provides.
Once you have completed your nursing program, you will need clinical experience. Your clinical experience should be preferably within the intensive care unit or emergency room units. The reason why these two areas are important is because many legal litigation cases are involved within these two hospital units.
You will draw upon your experience as an RN.
The experience you gain will be invaluable to your Legal Nursing career.
If would like to become a Certified Legal Nurse then you could pursue The Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC). The LNCC is recognized by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. You will need to renew the LNCC certification every five years.
The BLS reports the demand for Legal Nurse Consultants will be in high demand. As long as there are litigation cases involving medical issues, there will be a need for Legal Nurse Consultants. This nursing specialty appears only to keep growing to keep up with the many needs of ongoing medical ligation cases.