Specialist RNs Forge a Link Between Nursing & Law
Nurse Consultants Possess Valuable Legal Experience
Nurses’ jobs can be as rewarding as they are often thankless. When things go wrong in medical practice a whole slew of healthcare professionals may come under legal fire, including nurses. The challenge is to provide the legal counsel and expert advice appropriate for their expertise. On the other hand, it’s also practical to make sure that professional nurses get the initial legal training they need to stay safe from malpractice disaster.
Legal Nurse Consultants are not lawyers. They provide expert nursing advice from a legal perspective. They may support and advise lawyers hired in medical malpractice cases and serve as formal expert witnesses. They are trained to cull pertinent medical and legal information into appropriate legal documents and interface intelligently and effectively with all types of legal professionals. LNCs often start their legal careers with a RN licensure and nursing experience before being drawn to the legal aspects of their field.
Legal Nurse Workplace
Legal nurses may be employed wherever a medical and legal overlap occur and the need for medically trained legal specialists is necessary. LNCs may work for insurance companies that retain physicians and other medical clients, within the legal departments of hospitals and medical complexes, and in attorneys’ offices particularly where medical malpractice is a specialty. Legal Nurses may also choose to work independently, as consultants in the interests of companies and individuals that may not require their expertise on a routine basis.
Degree Programs and Credentials
Legal nurse candidates must be RN licensed and have at least a few years of clinical nursing experience. The rule of thumb: the more nursing experience and the higher the educational degree the better the career potential and industry reputation of the LNC.
- Entry-level legal nurses may find jobs in the field with a RN license, clinical nurse experience and a Legal Nurse certificate. In most cases jobs such as these involve a lot of research; exploring medical documents for information necessary in a particular legal case. BSN degrees are preferred.
- Experienced legal nurses often hold Masters or Doctorate degrees in Nursing, have plenty of clinical nursing experience under their belts, and have earned a certification in Legal Nursing and possibly even a JD degree. Specialized nurses at this career level serve as legal consultants and expert witnesses.
Certifications and industry credentials can be a confusing mishmash in any nursing specialty and they are no less in legal nursing. The primary certification or industry credential is that offered by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants—the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC).
Legal Nurse Degree Program Curriculum
Certificate programs—not to be confused with the professional exam cert above—are offered through colleges and universities, traditionally or online, and may take about a year to complete. Curriculum is designed for experienced RNs and teaches them how to sift through complex medical and legal documents, write legal reports, and conduct effective research and analysis appropriate for a medical malpractice type of proceeding. Candidates receive a broad overview of medical law, a detailed dissection of typical legal proceedings, and often are required to take courses that improve their communication skills.
Interested candidates should pursue programs that are American Bar Association and AALNC approved. Some LNC programs are offered as part of a larger paralegal curriculum.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that all RN specialties are booming, as far as career opportunity goes. The push is on for nurses to specialize. Legal Nurses may work for themselves, or for attorneys and hospitals. They may also choose to sub-specialize in a related field, such as forensic nursing, or go on to earn a Law degree.
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