A legal nurse consultant is a registered nurse that is involved with helping the legal community learn about health care policy and the various issues that affect it. These nurses work to critically analyze, evaluate, and make recommendations on a variety of clinical issues that may arise in community, state, or federal health care situations. They work alongside government agencies, healthcare insurance companies, and attorneys to provide factual data and expert witness testimony to provide an inside look at how health care works in America and what changes, if any, could be made to the existing structure in place. Registered nurses who become legal nurse consultants generally have worked as a nurse for at least three years and hold an accredited degree and licensure to be able to practice in the state in which they reside, allowing them to be the best possible professionals to work on state and federal health care issues.
While the Bureau of Labor Statistics fails to mention the salary of legal nurse consultants, it is reported that registered nurses earned an average salary of $68,450. It is estimated that a registered nurse who works as a legal consultant may earn more because their work is specialized; Payscale is currently showing that a legal nurse consultant could earn between $55,092 to $211,399; the discrepancy is based on region, experience, and overtime worked by the individual.
Legal nurse consultants can expect to earn an average of $26.81 as a beginning hourly wage. However, their annual salary must take into account overtime and bonuses, both of which are traditional forms of income for this field; the total pay for a legal nurse consultant could be as high as $201,673, depending on their employer and overtime worked during the fiscal year.
Key responsibilities for legal nurse consultants includes reviewing medical records and cases, research cases that are of immediate impact to their employer, educating colleagues on medical matters, and testifying as expert witnesses after helping to prepare a case for trial. Because legal nurse consultants meld their expertise in both nursing and law, their work is extremely important for medical malpractice and health care suits. In some extreme cases, their work could be used as evidence that is provided to the Supreme Court or in front of Congress to help persuade politicians and courts towards a more ethical healthcare process, making the job of an LNC more important as the healthcare industry continues to change in the United States.
Legal nurse consultants are required to have proficient communication, marketing, networking, and research skills as well as be detailed oriented and have knowledge of not only the US legal system but how it affects health care. They are required to have organizational skills, be able to work with or without supervision and be familiar with healthcare record procedures and medical administrative tasks. Most positions will require these professionals to also be able to have at least a few years of experience as a working registered nurse and must be able to question medical professionals during depositions or for any other legal proceedings.
Degree and Education Requirements
Legal nurse consultants must have, at the minimum, an accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing from a university or college. The undergraduate degree, which takes four years to complete, is the first step towards becoming a legal consultant and is often followed by a master’s degree in nursing, which can take an additional two years to complete, depending on whether a nurse decides to complete their education online or through traditional means. It is also possible to become a legal nurse consultant after earning a doctorate in nursing practice, which can take two to four years to complete. The only differences between degrees is the amount of money a legal nurse can reasonably expect to earn during the first years of their career. Most graduate and postgraduate legal nurse consultants make an average of $10,000 a year more than their bachelor degree counterparts; work experience between degrees accounts for the discrepancy as well as the accreditation earned with each subsequent certification.
Pros and Cons
There are several pros and cons to becoming a legal nurse consulting; it is a fast-paced career that demands a lot from its professionals. Along with a large amount of marketing on the behalf of the individual, legal nurse consulting requires a great amount of time, including overtime, spent on researching and preparing documents for court and also educating attorneys on medical legal issues that are present in the state; these professionals must also be well-versed in federal regulations as it pertains to healthcare. The advantages are numerous as well; LNCs make more money than RNs, have the ability to work as expert witnesses in court cases, and can help attorneys craft legislation that will benefit public health in the long run. LNCs are also in demand all over the country, with the field growing fast, so there is always the possibility of finding a position, no matter where a professional is located.
Legal nurse consultants first and foremost are registered nurses that have earned licensure through the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, also known as NCLEX-RN. An experience of between three and five years is also required for most positions. Because legal nurse consultants often get on-the-job training, it is most likely the best way to begin on this career path is to simply interview for available positions; internships and fellowships are also available during and immediately after graduating from an accredited university and can be helpful for those who wish to begin their careers straight away. Candidates are also encouraged to apply for the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification, which is approved by and offered through the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board. This certification is provided by registered nurses who have proof of 2,000 hours of experience as nurses and provides a stable education for legal work by these nurses.
This is a growing field, although the Bureau of Labor Statistics has yet to formulate a web page filled with accurate data on it; it does, however, mention that there is an expected 16 percent growth of registered nurses, which is the umbrella field for legal nurse consultants, through 2024. This means than an additional 440,000 positions will become available, some of which will be allocated to legal nurse consultants, although it is still difficult to calculate precisely how many jobs will be for this specialty. Legal nurse consultants are expected to be required for insurance businesses, healthcare companies, medical attorneys, and more as the rules and regulations for healthcare management change in the United States. Consulting firms, hospitals, and government agencies have also recently begun searching for nurses with this specialization, with most positions offering the possibility of making between $50,000 to $80,000 as an average salary; this is before overtime and bonuses are calculated.
Legal nurse consulting is a career that is not suited for everyone; a master of law and nursing issues is necessary. For those who choose to pursue this career, it can be a rewarding career, particularly if the professional is dedicated to the health and safety of the public.