While nursing is a popular career choice for those who wish to work in the medical industry, did you know there are many different types of nursing careers? Although it’s common to assume that the only types of employment options for nurses are patient-centric roles in hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities, these are only a handful of potential career options for nursing professionals. Perhaps one of the most exciting and unique career options for registered nurses is a Legal Nurse Consultant, or LNC. This unique and important career combines multiple disciplines. If you’re interested in learning more about your potential career mobility, then you should take a moment and continue reading about the unique roles and responsibilities of a Legal Nurse Consultant.
What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Essentially, a legal nurse consultant is a specialized nurse that’s charged with providing medical expertise for legal matters. It’s not uncommon for these professionals to work directly with legal professionals, such as lawyers, government agencies and insurance companies.
According to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC), these professionals are hired to analyze and evaluate testimony and facts regarding a case that deals with healthcare or patient care. These cases are often involved in understanding the role of healthcare and outcomes in a case. Legal Nurse Consultants are often Registered Nurses who are hired to investigate and analyze evidence and other issues within a lawsuit or criminal trial.
For example, a defendant who claims he was injured, but the prosecution is unsure of the viability of his claims, will then be investigated and analyzed by a Legal Nurse Consultant. The LNC is brought in and his medical records and other evidence is thoroughly reviewed to determine whether or not his injuries are real or were caused by the incident in question. Another example is an LNC is brought in to investigate a personal injury claim on behalf of an insurance company. These professionals will come in and after reviewing evidence, will be charged with providing expert testimony in the court trial.
Legal Nurse Consultant Roles and Responsibilities
Unlike a standard Registered Nurse, which works closely with patients in a medical environment, Legal Nurse Consultants are charged with a unique task away from the treatment halls of hospitals, nursing homes or private practices.
Essentially, a LNC is responsible for investigating, researching and analyzing medical records and other documents as it pertains to a legal case. Therefore, the work environment is often in an office setting, which is quite different than standard work environments.
Here are some of the most common job duties and responsibilities of a Legal Nurse Consultant:
- Receiving and interpreting medical history and records.
- Working alongside attorneys and other legal professionals to compile documentation about medical analysis of medical records to ensure they are factual and complete.
- Detailing medical research as it pertains to a specific case or defendant.
- Interviewing essential personnel for a legal case or criminal trial.
- Providing in-depth insights to legal professionals regarding medical services, procedures or medical record analysis.
- Drafting complex reports for private practices or government agencies.
- Consulting with government agencies regarding healthcare legislation or proposed bills.
- Testifying in court as an expert witness for a criminal or civil court case.
Desired Skills for Legal Nurse Consultants
Work as a Legal Nurse Consultant is as varied and unique as both the medical and legal industries. Therefore, it’s no surprise that these professionals are required to hold a variety of skills and talents.
Essentially, an LNC should have mastered two primary skills: medical and legal knowledge. After all, the baseline of their work heavily involves both of these disciplines. While nurses are required to have a solid understanding of both these disciplines, the skills needed to succeed as a Legal Nurse Consultant tend to align more with administrative tasks rather than clinical.
The following skills are considered the most essential to have a successful career as a Legal Nurse Consultant:
- Critical Thinking – This is perhaps the most invaluable skill set for this profession. Because an LNC is responsible for reviewing and analyzing complex data and medical records, being able to critically review evidence and draw conclusions based upon facts rather than assumptions is of upmost importance. Therefore, a Legal Nurse Consultant must be acutely talented in identifying patterns, drawing logical conclusions and recalling small details to help cultivate a narrative or solve an issue.
- Clinical Skills – A good portion of being a Legal Nurse Consultant is providing accurate, current and complete medical analysis. The only way to provide such detailed examinations is by holding years of hands-on clinical experience. In most cases, an LNC provides expertise for a specific specialty. For example, in elder abuse cases against nursing homes, an LNC who specialized in geriatric care would be hired. To succeed in this career field, you must not only hold a vast amount of practical experience, but also consistently undergo continuing education.
- Legal Knowledge – As stated earlier, LNC’s perform a combination of medical and legal work. Therefore, it’s imperative that you hold a solid understanding of the legal system and terminology. While you aren’t expected to perform the work of a lawyer, you must be able to grasp essential terms and processes as they relate to your caseload.
- Organizational Skills – This should go without saying, but as a Legal Nurse Consultant you must hold above-average organizational skills. While this is imperative for all healthcare and legal professionals, because an LNC deals with potential evidence and is called upon to provide expert testimony, you must gather, investigate and organize information and physical evidence to a greater degree than a traditional nurse.
Legal Nurse Consultants may be a fairly new profession, but this blend of medical and legal professions has already become one of the most in-demand upper-level career options for esteemed nurses. With an average pay rating from $65 to $200 per hour and above-average job growth, it’s no surprise this is among the most desirable longterm goals for many Registered Nurses.
If you’re interested in learning more about becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant in your state, check with your State Board of Nursing. This governing body will provide state-specific training, experience and nurse licensing requirements.