Legal Nurse Consultant
It is not uncommon for the legal and medical worlds to overlap. When this occurs, lawyers, insurance companies and other entities unfamiliar with the medical field need the help of an expert. This is where legal nurse consultants (LNC) come in. These professionals provide knowledge and guidance on the medical aspects of legal cases. Keep reading to learn more about the legal nurse consultant.
What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?
A legal nurse consultant acts as a liaison between the medical and legal fields. They offer a variety of services to ensure law professionals handle medical- and health-related cases appropriately. A consultant’s main role involves using their medical training and background to advise on legal cases. They often assist with cases such as medical malpractice, toxic torts, personal injury, and worker’s compensation.
The exact duties of an LNC vary based on the client’s needs. Because they perform a range of services, their day-to-day responsibilities change quite frequently. In a single day, they can help legal professionals understand medical terminology, research past cases, or review medical records. They may also interview witnesses, evaluate causation of damages, or attend court-ordered medical exams.
- Determine a plaintiff’s long-term medical requirements
- Calculate a patient’s estimated costs for that care
- Draft legal documents in medical cases
- Review cases to identify strengths and weaknesses
- Testify in court as an expert witness
- Prepare chronologies or timelines for medical records
- Preparing for depositions and trials
Professional Requirements to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
To become a legal nurse consultant, you must hold a registered nursing license. This involves earning your associate’s or bachelor’s degree in nursing. On average, it takes two years of full-time study for an associate degree and four years to get a bachelor’s degree. Some schools also offer accelerated programs to shorten this timeframe. Students with a bachelor’s in another field may benefit from attending a school that offers second degree programs.
Once you successfully complete a nursing school program, you must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX). After passing the exam, the State Board of Nursing will issue your license. After receiving your license, gain experience in the field by working as a nurse. You will also benefit from starting legal training through your employer or a LNC program.
While completely optional, obtaining national credentialing can help improve job prospects. This credential requires a RN license, five years of nursing experience, and 2,000 practice hours as a LNC.
Some legal nurse consulting certificate programs offer students internship opportunities to help them gain experience. As interns, students work with experienced LNCs or attorneys to gain a better understanding of reviewing medical documents for legal proceedings.
Additional Educational Requirements
Students wanting to specialize in a specific area can get a master’s degree in nursing (MSN). A master’s program is also the first step in achieving a doctorate level nursing degree.
Additional Licensing Requirements
Some fields of practice require additional training and/or licensing. For example, to become a LCN, an individual must obtain a nursing license.
Legal nurse consultants must complete continuing education courses as required by their state to retain their nursing license. These courses cover general topics and offer additional training in specific fields. This keeps consultants up-to-date with medical and legal changes.
Where Can You Work as a Legal Nurse Consultant
You have diverse opportunities when it comes to where you can work as a legal nurse consultant. If you work better alone and have the financial means, you may fare better as an independent consultant. This allows for more flexibility and control over your work environment since you set your hours and choose your clients.
Other options include working for a government agency, insurance company, law office, or hospital. Some companies and agencies hire both part-time and full-time employees. Many LCNs start their careers working part-time, and work their way into full-time positions. You can also choose to become part of a consulting firm. Typically, these firms bring together consultants with different specialties to accommodate the various types of clients and cases.
How do Legal Nurse Consultants Get Paid
Generally, legal nurse consultants get paid an hourly wage or a salary directly from their employer. Hourly employees receive compensation for each hour they work, and overtime pay for any hour over 40. Employees on salary earn an annual amount, typically paid on a weekly or biweekly basis. Commonly, both hourly and salaried employees enjoy benefits such as sick pay and health insurance, those this varies by employer.
Independent consultants choose their billing method and their rate of pay. Some prefer to charge by the hour while others have a flat-rate fee for services. To determine a flat-rate fee, most estimate the number of hours it will take to complete the project. They then multiply that number by an hourly rate.
When working on retainer, the consultant receives a small payment on a regular basis to perform services as needed. This method is ideal for clients that need legal work frequently but can’t afford to hire a full-time lawyer.
Legal Nurse Consultant Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide information specific to LCN. However, according to the BLS, the median annual salary for all registered nurses was $70,000 ($33.65/hr) as of 2017.
Geographical location and amount of professional experience influence how much salary a consultant earns. The amount also depends on whether the individual works for a company or as an independent contractor.
Employment Outlook for Legal Nurse Consultants
The BLS predicts the employment rate for all registered nurses to increase around 15% by 2026. This rate is faster than the rate for other occupations in the U.S. A growing emphasis on preventative care and an increase in chronic conditions contributes to this growth.
How to Get a Job as a Legal Nurse Consultant
To get a job as a legal nurse consultant, start networking as soon as possible. Join professional networking websites to create new contacts in the industry. You can also join nursing associations or attend conferences to make connections. Next, conduct job searches through job boards specific to the medical field in your area. You can also check consultant firm and healthcare system websites as many post jobs as they become available. By now, you likely have an idea of the position you want, so you can narrow down the options.
If working as a freelance consultant, you will likely rely on word of mouth to secure clients. This makes it important to market yourself. Reach out to former nursing school alumni and classmates and ask about career leads. Talk to friends and family in the medical industry and see if they have any advice. Hand out business cards to local law firms, hospitals, and businesses.
|Degree Level||Associate or bachelor’s degree|
|License/Certification||State nursing license (RN) required; certification required by some employers|
|Key Skills||Empathy, close attention to detail, organizational, problem-solving skills, familiarity with medical records systems, knowledge of medical terminology, familiar with legal terminology|
|Number of Jobs (2016)||2,955,200 (represents all registered nurses)|
|15% growth rate (faster than average growth rate; accounts for all nurses)|
|Median Salary (2017)||$70,000|
|On the Job Training||None|
|Top Earners||Top earners in the field are generally employed by large consulting firms|
(*Source: the BLS)