Legal Nurse Consultant Schools

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Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) are experienced registered nurses who understand how the law applies in healthcare settings. These specialized nurses use their medical experience to advise attorneys, clinics, insurance companies, and patients on issues at the nexus of healthcare and law. There are many legal issues that deal with medical information. Legal nurse consultants (LNCs) act as a go-between for the medical and legal worlds. Legal nurse consultants work for clients that need an expert to help them understand a medical issue, in a legal context. There are many schools that offer specialized training for nurses who are interested in this unique career.

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What Should I Know About Legal Nurse Consultants?

LNCs may act as independent consultants or they may be employed in healthcare or legal settings such as law firms, businesses, consulting firms, and government agencies. They work to evaluate legal issues in healthcare, such as deciding liability or negligence in particular medical cases. They read medical records and healthcare literature and discuss cases with other legal and medical experts. Many work for themselves and consult for a variety of clients. For example, an LNC might help an insurance company determine if a particular claim is medically valid. Or, an LNC might help a law firm establish that medical negligence had caused their client's injury.

When working on a case, legal nurse consultants write up their findings after doing research and bringing their own medical opinion to weigh in on particular evidence. They may consult with witnesses or attorneys, and many function as expert witnesses in court rooms. They also work with other healthcare practitioners, such as doctors and nurses, to help them see the legal issues present in their own practices.

How Can I Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?

Most legal nurse consultants have years of nursing experience. If you are not currently a registered nurse, the first step is to earn your nursing license. You can become a nurse by earning a nursing associate or bachelor's degree. During these degrees, students study health sciences and nursing methods. Students also complete hands-on training in a local hospital or clinic. After completing a training program, you must then pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) before you can earn a nursing license. The next step is to gain some experience on the job. Legal nurse consultants have a range of nursing experience. Some possible work environments include emergency, obstetrics, surgical, intensive care, gerontology, or pediatric nursing.

Becasuse legal nurse consulting is a specialized career path, it is helpful to have focused education in this area, if you're looking to enter legal nurse consulting. The most common type of education in legal nurse consulting is a professional certificate. These programs take about one year to complete and are offered through universities and allied healthcare organizations. Many legal nurse consultant certificate programs require at least three years of nursing experience. The following topics are common requirements of legal nurse consulting certificate programs:

  • Legal Concepts: Students learn about topics such as tort law, liability, and negligence. This study provides nurses with a framework for evaluating medical fault.
  • Legal Writing and Research: This course discusses how to do legal research into past cases and laws, and how to draft and format legal documents.
  • Professional Legal Nurse Consulting Practice: LNC students study the structure of the legal nurse consulting practice and the duties of the LNC, as well as the types of clients they can expect in their work.

What Training is Available in Legal Nurse Consulting?

Current RNs can earn an academic certificate, to prepare for a career as a legal nurse consultant. These programs are available from traditional universities, online schools, and community colleges. They can be earned on-site or online. Most programs take a year or less to complete. Students typically take three to six classes.

The courses in the LNC program teach nurses how to find legal information, write for a legal setting, and apply their medical knowledge to legal issues. The following classes are examples of what you might take during an LNC certificate:

  • Civil Practice: Students study how the court system works. Topics discussed include filing complaints, trials, case investigations, depositions, and settlements.
  • Healthcare Law: This class discusses healthcare legislation and laws that regulate the medical profession. Students study how laws affect clinical and administrative sides of healthcare.
  • Legal Research and Writing: Students learn about legal information, such as statutes, cases, and constitutions. Nurses conduct medical research and write up their findings in an appropriate format.
  • Personal Injury Law: This course discusses liability, torts, and medical negligence.

What Should I Consider When Choosing a Legal Nurse Consulting Certificate?

  • Accreditation: Choose a certificate from a school that has a valid institutional accreditation. You may also want to look for a program that was developed according to the guidelines of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. The American Bar Association also accredits legal nursing programs.
  • Course Delivery: Consider whether you need an online or traditional certificate. Since LNC programs are usually designed for experienced professionals, they often have flexible schedules. Students may be able to take evening or weekend classes on-site. Or, you could sign up for asynchronous online classes, which allow students to complete requirements when it is most convenient for them.
  • Mentorships: Many certificate programs require a mentorship or make this option available to students. During the mentorship students work with an experienced legal nurse consultant. The mentorship may take place in a law firm, state agency, insurance company, or any organization that requires medical/legal consulting.
  • Specialization Areas or Electives: There are different specialization areas within legal nurse consulting, just as there are in clinical nursing. Some certificates allow students to take classes in a certain LNC area, such as forensic nursing.

What Should I Know About LNC Professional Certification?

Along with the academic certificate, you may also choose to earn professional certification. Professional certification is offered by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. People who meet the organization's eligibility criteria and pass a credentialing exam can use the title Legal Nurse Consultant Certified. To be eligible to take the exam you will need a nursing license, five years of nursing experience, and 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience.

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