What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
We’ve brought together advice from two experts on this page. Vickie Milazzo, RN, MSN, JD, whose video interview appears below, launched the first national certification program for legal nurse consultants and offers training and guidance in the field at her institute, www.legalnurse.com. Lorry Schoenly goes into more detail about nursing informatics and what kinds of opportunities are available in the field.
Lorry Schoenly, PhD, RN is a nurse writer and educator with over 25 years of experience. She has been certified in five different clinical specialties including critical care and emergency nursing. Starting as an associate degree registered nurse, she continued her schooling in traditional and distance-learning settings to obtain a BSN, MSN, and PhD in nursing while working full-time and raising a family. Lorry teaches nursing in a variety of settings including webinars and online nursing courses.
Legal Nurse Consultants (LNCs) apply their nursing knowledge and experience in legal cases involving health care. LNCs help lawyers and other legal professionals understand the medical evidence in a legal case. They may also render expert witness testimony in court proceedings, depositions and arbitrations.
What to Expect as a Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal nurse consultants can work in-house for a law firm or be self-employed, working for a variety of legal firms as needed. Most LNCs have prior clinical experience and many specialize in the area of medical law in which they have practice experience. For example, a nurse with many years of obstetric experience may specialize in legal consultation for maternal or newborn infant injury cases.
Nurses working as legal consultants frequently screen potential cases for merit, creating logical timelines from the case medical records. They also research and interpret the care provided, comparing the actions of the health care providers in the case with the expected standard of care. LNCs may interview witnesses, as well, and collaborate with other members of the legal team to formulate theories regarding causes of injury.
Nurses who enjoy researching and investigating tend to be perfect for the LNC role. Nurses can spend many hours sifting through case medical records. The work is often detail-oriented and driven by a need to find facts.
While LNCs do not deliver direct patient care as consultants, many still hold onto work within their clinical specialty on at least a part-time basis. In general, the position can involve some long hours, but at the same time, can be very rewarding. Legal nurse consultants are a part of a team that makes it possible to both bring forward charges of true negligence and to exonerate falsely accused providers.
How to Get Started as an LNC
Most LNCs pursue education in the legal aspects of health care through a continuing education course, certification process or graduate degree. Some LNCs “fall into” a legal position as a result of their clinical expertise. For instance, an LNC may be asked to provide expert witness testimony in a case and then decide that he or she would like to continue doing so for other cases.