When we hear or see the phrase legal nursing consultant, we tend to think of a legal professional and a medical professional, which is exactly how to describe this individual. A legal nursing consultant (LNC) is a professional who not only works in healthcare but uses his or her knowledge of healthcare to help in the medical-legal industry. The position of legal nurse consultant is one that can be extremely rewarding and challenging. The legal nurse consultant is required to meet specific education, certification, and work experiences.
What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
A legal nurse consultant is a registered nurse who uses his or her knowledge of nursing and critical care to act as a consultant in litigation regarding medical care. LNCs often work with law enforcement and lawyers as consultants providing medical expertise for legal cases. They also work with pharmaceutical companies or insurance companies for consultations on medical claims or medication concerns. Their strong background in reading charts and understanding patient records and medical terminology make legal nurse consultants very valuable medical professionals. They may utilize their expertise in the following areas or cases.
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
- Personal injury
- Worker’s compensation
- Social Security Administration disability
- Billing fraud
- Life Care Planning
- Toxic Torts
- Healthcare license investigation
Some of their duties include testifying as expert witnesses, consulting for insurance companies, informing legal personnel of policies and regulations involving medical practice and educating legal professionals on medical information or terminology used in a legal case.
Education Requirements to Become One
To work as a legal nurse consultant, the individual must first be a registered nurse by completing an approved associate or bachelor’s degree nursing program and passing the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed as an RN. Although legal nurses are not necessarily required to complete any additional education, legal nurse consultants should complete a legal nurse consultant program, paralegal training or some legal courses. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) states that they should have at least five years of clinical experience before becoming a legal nurse consultant. Of these five years, at least two should be in the field of legal nursing.
Although certification is not required of legal nurse consultants, according to Nurse Journal, many prefer to become certified to demonstrate their knowledge and commitment to the professional. The only certification that the AALNC acknowledges is the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LLCC). To obtain the LNCC certification, the candidate must pass a certification exam. To be eligible to take the exam, the applicant must have a current RN license, at least five years of experience working as an RN, and proof of at least 2,000 hours working as a legal nurse consultant in the past three years.
Career Outlook for Legal Nurse Consultants
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that RNs should experience a job growth of 15 percent from 2016-2026 with about 438,100 new jobs created during that time. RNs, in general, earned yearly wages that ranged from $48,690 to $104,100 or more, according to a May 2017 BLS report. The average hourly wage was $35.36. Legal nurse consultant wages may be slightly higher because of the additional training and experience.
With the legal and medical professions both such popular professions, it’s not unusual that many RNs choose to work in the field of legal nursing consulting because it offers the best of both worlds. A legal nursing consultant can best be described as both a legal professional and a medical professional whose expertise and knowledge is widely respected.