What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?

Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses (RNs) who work with lawyers on medical-related legal cases, helping them to understand medical records, terminology, and other data. This field is both lucrative and growing rapidly, making it a popular career choice for RNs looking for a change of pace. Schools offering Juris Doctor degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

Legal nurse consultants help lawyers and other legal professionals to understand and analyze complex medical data encountered in medically-related legal cases. Examples of legal matters that may require the expertise of a legal nurse consultant include personal injury, medical malpractice, and product and nursing liability lawsuits; sexual assault and criminal defense cases; and toxic torts. Specific duties of legal nurse consultants vary widely but might include the following:

  • Screening cases for merit
  • Locating and interviewing witnesses and preparing witness reports for trial
  • Formulating medical-legal theories
  • Handling plaintiffs' medical records
  • Analyzing and interpreting information for defense attorneys

Legal nurse consultants also are hired as expert witnesses to give testimony in depositions, hearings, arbitration, and trials.

Important Facts about this Occupation

Entry-Level Education Associate's degree in nursing; No formal legal education necessary
Training Formal legal nurse consultant training is not required but is common and can be helpful; Most LNCs practice as a registered nurse for at least five years before becoming a legal consultant
Key Skills Communication skills, be skilled at analysis, stay organized, have a broad knowledge of legal issues as they pertain to nurses and the medical profession
Certification/Licensing Certification available but not required; Earning a certificate could help applicants get a job as a legal nurse consultant

Salary Statistics and Employment Outlook

A legal nurse consultant can work as an independent consultant or for an institution, such as a law firm, insurance company, or hospital. Independent consultants generally earn more money than salaried employees and are paid hourly. Rates vary depending on the task and area of nursing specialty. Specific hourly rate information for legal nurse consultants working as independent contractors is not widely available.

According to PayScale.com, the majority of legal nurse consultants earn between $53,970 and $211,755 a year, as of September 2015. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) does not report data specific to legal nurse consultants, it does project that the employment of registered nurses in general, a category that includes nursing consultants, could grow by as much as 16% between 2014 and 2024, a rate faster than the national average.

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