legal RNOverview

When you combine medical expertise with legal know-how you get a legal nurse consultant. The primary role of an LNC is to evaluate, analyze, and render informed opinions about the medical issues, delivery of health care and/or the health outcomes as they relate to cases or issues within the medical-legal arena. Some examples include:

  •  In a medical malpractice case –evaluating the delivery of healthcare and health outcomes is related to whether or not the Standard of Care (SOC)was met
    • In a personal injury (PI) case – evaluating health outcomes is related to defining/evaluating the conditions and injuries of the plaintiff resulting from the alleged negligence
    • In a life care plan (LCP) – evaluating health outcomes is related to identifying future medical costs to care for a plaintiff with specific medical conditions and level of function

An LNC is a registered nurse and is a unique and valuable member of the litigation team. LNCs bring their health science education and clinical expertise to healthcare and medically related issues in the litigation process. The practice of legal nurse consulting is performed in collaboration with attorneys (who are admitted to practice law) and others involved in the legal process.

 Education

Registered nurses (RNs) are required to have a minimum of an associate’s degree, but bachelor’s degrees in nursing (BSN) are also available and can help an RN’s chances to earn better pay. An associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) includes courses in anatomy, nursing, nutrition, chemistry, microbiology among others. You’ll also be required to take general liberal arts classes. Earning an ADN is the most popular option for registered nurses and opens the door to entry-level staff nurse positions which will provide you with hands-on experience in the medical field. This is the fastest path to becoming a registered nurse as most associate’s degree programs last about two to three years.

An aspiring RN can earn a bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) in four years at a college or university. If you’re already an RN, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN program which is geared specifically for RNs who have an associate’s degree or nursing diploma. This path usually takes about two to three years.

Certification

Certification in a nursing specialty provides evidence to the public that a candidate has achieved a standard beyond licensure, i.e. that the “certified” nurse possesses specialized knowledge and experience, and has passed a national exam. Many nurses seek certification to validate their expertise. It is important to realize that certification is typically not achieved at entry into practice.

Certification is a process that recognizes an individual’s qualifications and demonstrated knowledge in a specialty. In 1997, AALNC established the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB) to administer the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) program. The LNCC certification program is accredited by the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS).
The purpose of the LNCC program is to promote a level of expertise and professionalism in legal nurse consulting. Legal nurse consultants must meet the eligibility requirements, which include consulting experience, and achieve a passing score on a multiple-choice examination to earn the LNCC designation. As with many clinical nursing certification programs, the LNCC credential is designed for those who have demonstrated experience and knowledge in the specialty. Certification is an appropriate goal for those who are committed to a professional legal nurse consulting practice.

Employment

The employment opportunities are numerous. Here is a sampling:

  • Law Firm-  assistance to attorneys in cases involving healthcare and other medical issues such as medical malpractice,
    personal injury, toxic tort, and product liability
  • Insurance Companies- Accident, life, and health insurance companies employ LNCs to serve as case managers, utilization review specialists, medical bill auditors, policy development coordinators and claims adjusters
  • Hospitals and Care Centers- utilized as primary investigators in hospitals, ambulatory care centers, and clinics
  • Government Agencies- state attorney-general offices, the Department of Justice, state health professions licensing boards,
    or the Food and Drug Administration
  • Product Liability- cases involve injuries and illnesses caused by an alleged defect in a product, device, or drug and in some cases, a “failure to warn” about the alleged defects
  • Forensic Nursing-  providing nursing care and counseling to victims of sexual assault (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner or  SANE nurse) and other crimes producing bodily injury

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in 2013 that the median annual salary for Registered Nurses was $67,930 with an Associate’s Degree. The salaries can be into six figures for those employed as legal nurse consultants in law firms and insurance companies.