How to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant
An in-depth look at the responsibilities, requirements, certifications, job outlook, and salary.
Legal Nurse Consultants work with the same goal as any other nurse, using their knowledge and skills to provide the best possible care for patients. However, a Legal Nurse Consultant is very different from a traditional RN. Even though the word “nurse” is part of their title, their day-to-day duties and responsibilities differ vastly from those generally associated with nurses.
Nevertheless, the work of Legal Nurse Consultants is just as important to patients, hospitals, and clinics, as the work of the nurses on the floor. Sometimes ensuring the best possible care for patients happens behind the scenes, with little or no patient contact at all. That’s the role of a Legal Nurse Consultant. From assessing patients’ healthcare costs to identifying potential areas of malpractice, a Legal Nurse Consultant improves healthcare by upholding the systems, standards, and oversight that keep the healthcare system functioning safely and smoothly.
Legal Nurse Consultants play an integral and crucial role in healthcare, making it a highly demanding job with tremendous responsibilities. However, if your goal is the day-to-day gratification of working with patients and aiding directly in medical outcomes, being a Legal Nurse Consultant is probably not the best career for you.
Due to the high level of responsibility and competence involved, experienced Legal Nurse Consultants rank among the highest-paid nurses in the country.
(Click to see our list of the highest-paying nursing jobs in the US).
Continue reading this career guide if you’re interested in specializing as a Legal Nurse Consultant. We will cover how to become a Legal Nurse Consultant and the specific duties, responsibilities, and salary* expectations for this vital profession.
Legal Nurse Consultant Definition
What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Legal Nurse Consultants analyze and evaluate facts and testimony to render informed opinions on nursing and other healthcare outcomes and the nature and cause of injuries. A Legal Nurse Consultant is a licensed RN who performs a critical analysis of clinically related issues within the legal arena. Acting as consultants, they wear many hats, including analysts, collaborators, strategists, researchers, and educators.
Their in-depth knowledge of nursing, medicine, and the healthcare system means their contributions are used in medical legal cases across the healthcare spectrum. This makes them uniquely qualified and valuable members of both the legal team and the actual patient care team.
Legal Nurse Consultant: Job Description
What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?
Legal Nurse Consultants work with attorneys on nursing malpractice or other healthcare-related legal cases. They are responsible for evaluating, analyzing, and delivering opinions on the case and identifying, organizing, and analyzing medical records. In addition, they serve as aides to licensed attorneys, bridging the gap between law and the world of nursing and healthcare. They are dedicated and persistent and willing to spend a tremendous amount of time and energy on various legal/medical cases. They study the elements of nursing and medical malpractice and other areas of healthcare claims, such as workers’ compensation, product liability, and countless other medical/legal issues.
Legal Nurse Consultant: Job Responsibilities
As the title states, Legal Nurse Consultants act as consultants in screening new cases. They locate and interview medical experts and liaise between law firms, medical experts, and others. In addition, they formulate medical-legal case theories, identify deviations from nursing care standards, research medical literature, and coordinate independent medical examinations.
Legal Nurse Consultants frequently manage and analyze plaintiffs’ medical records. They assist in analyzing medical records, interpreting the notes of physicians and nurses, and preparing medical record chronologies, charts, diagrams, and timelines.
In addition to their consulting role, Legal Nurse Consultants also frequently serve as expert witnesses, testifying at trials, depositions, hearings, arbitrations, and preparing expert witness reports for trial.
On a day-to-day basis, Legal Nurse Consultants will find themselves doing any of the following:
1. Reviewing medical records
A Legal Nurse Consultant may review all medical records relevant to the case. These can help prepare a timeline of events or to demonstrate the extent of a client’s injuries.
2. Identifying medical standards of care
A Legal Nurse Consultant can use their knowledge to identify patient needs and determine if appropriate care was received.
3. Educating the legal team
Legal professionals typically do not understand medical terminology and might not be able to accurately interpret patient records or know how to communicate the information to a judge or jury. As a Legal Nurse Consultant, the core work is educating the legal team on the medical issues relating to a case to determine what legal action should be taken.
4. Researching cases
Legal Nurse Consultants can research the details of a case, look into the medical professionals involved, the hospital or provider’s records, and other information that might help the attorney build the case.
5. Preparing for trials and other legal proceedings
Legal Nurse Consultants can interview other medical professionals, talk to witnesses and compile the most relevant medical records to prepare for legal proceedings.
6. Testifying as an expert witness
Legal Nurse Consultants are often called upon to provide expert testimony. They use their knowledge to explain medical terms to the judge and jury and present the case’s medical facts. LNCs who serve as expert witnesses often work as clinical RNs.
Legal Nurse Consultant Jobs
Where Do Legal Nurse Consultants Work?
Legal Nurse Consultants work in a variety of settings. They often work for law firms, but they can also be employed by agencies and organizations including:
- Government offices
- Insurance companies
- Healthcare facilities
- Business legal departments
- Patient safety advocacy groups
- Forensic or criminal justice organizations
These roles may be full-time, part-time, or even on a consultation basis. Many Legal Nurse Consultants start by working part-time and building their skills and reputation before becoming full-time LNCs.
Legal Nurse Consultant School & Certification
How Long Does it Take to Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
What Degree Do You Need to be a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant requires a great deal of education and work experience. It also requires a breadth of knowledge regarding medical procedures, processes, and routines, strong communication and observation skills, and attention to detail. As with most nursing professions, becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant begins with becoming a Registered Nurse.
To become a licensed Registered Nurse, prospects commonly earn a Bachelor’s Degree and pass the NCLEX-RN examination. Around 70% of aspiring Legal Nurse Consultants also seek additional certifications in specialty areas of nursing or advanced degrees like a master’s or doctoral degree.
Here is a closer look at the necessary steps to becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant:
1. Earn a BSN Degree
The first step toward becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant is obtaining a nursing degree. The Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree combines the fundamentals of nursing theory with actual hands-on clinical practice to develop an in-depth knowledge of various medical procedures.
2. Pass the NCLEX-RN Certification Examination
After earning a BSN, you’ll need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to earn your license and become a Legal Nurse Consultant.
(Click to read our NCLEX-RN Exam Review & Study Guide).
3. Completing LNC Certification
Most Legal Nurse Consultants pursue LNC certification through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Though this is not a requirement, certification helps candidates separate themselves from others in a competitive field, exhibiting knowledge and dedication. Eligibility for the exam requires a minimum of five years of RN experience and 2,000 hours of legal medical consulting.
Legal Nurse Consultant Salaries
How Much Do Legal Nurse Consultants Earn?
ZipRecruiter reports that LNCs can earn an average hourly wage of around $39, or about $81,000 annually. At the upper end of the scale, skilled and experienced LNCs can earn up to $65 per hour or around $135,000 annually.
Highest Paying Cities for Legal Nurse Consultants
Legal Nurse Consultant salaries vary based on employer or location. For example, here are some of the top-paying cities for Legal Nurse Consultants.
|Green River, WY||$99,676|
|Santa Clara, CA||$94,835|
|San Francisco, CA||$92,851|
Job Outlook for Critical Care Nurses
Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report the specific job outlook projections for Legal Nurse Consultants, they note that overall employment for other comparable nursing occupations is projected to increase by 45% through 2030, which is faster than the average for all occupations (8%).
Legal Nurse Consultant Careers
Are you ready to start your career as a Legal Nurse Consultant?
If you feel comfortable in legal-based environments, ranging from law offices to courtrooms, and have a talent for observing and evaluating myriad medical/clinical processes and procedures, the role of a Legal Nurse Consultant could suit you well.
You can begin your journey as a Legal Nurse Consultant by earning your BSN degree at Eagle Gate College.