Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant

A legal nurse consultant can be an individual contractor, running an independent business that works with lawyers, government officials, insurance companies, medical risk management teams and forensic professionals.

Typical duties include:
• Conducting educational sessions for attorneys about medical facts and issues relating to claims
• Authoritative review of medical records, other documents and hospital policies determining relevance to a legal case
• Case analysis with respect to medical event chronology and how these events fit a case
• Witness and exhibit preparation for trial
• Developing case strategies through collaboration with legal experts
• Conducting evaluation of possible breach of duty perpetrated by a health care facility or practitioner

A legal nurse consultant will play a vital role in any research conducted for medical malpractice suits. All legal teams involved in medical malpractice depend upon their expertise and unique medical backgrounds helping with advice for areas such as:
• Personal injury
• Workers’ compensation
• Toxic torts – personal injuries due to exposure from toxic substances like asbestos or other hazardous waste
• Medical licensure investigation
• Criminal and elder person law issues
• Product liability concerns

Expected salary
With proper education and certification, RNs with a master’s degree can expect to make a six-figure income as a nursing legal consultant. However, many independent consultants charge hourly rates plus expenses incurred. These independents can earn $150 per hour according to The Medical-Legal Consulting Institute. Professionals working for law firms usually receive a salary. Legal nurse consultants work well more than 40 hours per week. Legal consulting demands a great deal of effort that does not lend itself to a standard 9-5, Monday through Friday work week.

Job outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that RNs in general can anticipate exceptional job opportunities through the next decade, with a 23 percent employment growth rate projected for nursing careers over the 2006 to 2016 time period. Legal nurse consultants will remain in high demand for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that they charge less than medical doctors (MDs), do for the same services making them a cost-effective choice for attorneys, insurance companies and other groups who use their services.

In addition, as the National Alliance of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (NACLNC®) states nurses are the only health care providers who come face-to-face with patients every day. Adding that kind of interactive experience to their specialized training and skills gives legal nurse consultants the ability to offer an unmatched level of expertise to their clients. The complex nature of medical-legal cases demands a unique skill set, and those with the training to perform in such a highly specialized arena will enjoy the exceptional nursing career opportunities and rewards that come with this distinct profession.