Nurses with an interest for both emergency room trauma and courtroom drama may want to pursue a nursing degree in legal nurse consulting. Legal nurse consultants use their healthcare know-how in conjunction with an interest in the legal system to have a rewarding career in this combined profession.
Legal nurse consultants are commonly called by defense attorneys and prosecutors for their forensic or pharmacological familiarity to help determine difficult criminal or civil cases. More commonly, legal nurse consultants consult with attorneys and others in the legal field on medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation and other healthcare-related cases. These legal specialists are responsible for interviewing clients, reviews medical records, researches and summarizes medical literature, helps evaluate liabilities and damages, assists with depositions, prepares exhibits, and identifies and retains expert witnesses.
Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who have previously worked in emergency rooms, or in other disciplines, who then take on focused training at legal nurse consulting schools. These schools offer on-campus or online nursing degree coursework in legal ethics, personal injury cases, forensic science, and legal writing to name a few. There are also dedicated classes in legal issues about medical malpractice, auto accident injury, lower back pain, and product liability.
Certified legal nurse consultants are regularly contracted to work with private attorneys and corporate lawyers. However, many find work outside the courtroom. Some take positions with hospitals, insurance companies, and government agencies. Many are hired to help provide quality assurance at pharmaceutical firms and chemical companies. About half of all legal nurse consultants work on staff at law firms, insurance companies and other institutions, and their salaries are just about the same as those of hospital nursing administrators, who earn about $80,000, according to a 2004 Nursing Management salary survey. The other half of legal nurse consultants work independently and earn $100 to $150 an hour or more,
Jobs in the profession are expected to grow throughout the next 10 years as more and more companies introduce medications and devices that are federally approved, or reviewed in the courtroom or by government agencies. While formal training in legal nurse consulting is not required to practice, training and educational programs are available at universities, community colleges, and other private and public institutions.