Nurses have medical knowledge and research skills that are invaluable in many Medical Malpractice, Toxic Tort, Personal Injury, Long-Term Care, Product Liability, and Class Action lawsuits. Attorneys in this field have a secret weapon on their team when they hire a nurse to review records, perform necessary medical research, contribute educated deposition questions, create visual aids and demonstrations for complex medical issues, and testify as experts. But how does a nurse, working in a hospital, transition to this exciting profession? Here are some steps that can help get a nurse started in the Legal Nurse Consulting profession:
- Gain nursing experience and knowledge. Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), pass a state board of nursing exam, obtain a license, and maintain continuing education credit. Gain experience in a sector of nursing, such as medical surgical nursing, emergency nursing, critical care nursing, home health, dialysis, or perioperative nursing and complete specialty nursing education in your field to show knowledge level and expertise.
- Foster and improve writing skills. Nurses write every shift. They document the assessment, diagnosis, plan, implementation, and evaluation of medical care given in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and in home health. Likely, as a nurse you have fairly direct and competent writing skills. Continue to hone and improve writing skills by reading professional and medical journals, and reviewing your writing at work to improve. Your written and verbal communication skills speak volumes about your value as a member of a legal team, and are absolutely necessary to become a Legal Nurse Consultant.
- Ask yourself the hard questions. Do you enjoy reading medical records? Do you enjoy teaching others in lay terms about medical and nursing topics? Are you systematic, detail oriented, and reliable? Are you self-motivated to finish projects and meet deadlines? Do you have great written and verbal communication skills? Do you have an entrepreneurial spirit and want to own a business? Do you have time and energy to build a reputation and gain clients?
- Be realistic. The legal nurse consulting field has many opportunities, in many different forms, all over the country. Sometimes it takes a little while to gain experience and clients, but the more experience you have the more opportunities will avail themselves. Be patient and persistent. Legal Nurse Consulting is a professional career track for nurses with extensive knowledge and excellent communication skills, and is in no way a “get rich quick” scheme that some educational advertisements claim. The salary for a legal nurse consultant often varies depending on the type of client, and salaries are typically based on experience, geographic location, and type of reports needed. Legal nurse consultants can own their own consulting business, work for an insurance company or in a government agency, or work “in house” in a law firm.
- Research educational programs. Search for affordable and flexible learning modules to increase your awareness about legal issues, terms, review of medical records, and report Consider internships and on the job training with insurance companies and law firms. Most Legal Nurse Consultants do not have prior legal training, clients are looking for the nurses’ professional knowledge and critical analysis skills related to nursing, not their legal knowledge.
- Learn about medical records review and reports. After being organized, the medical records should be reviewed in relation to the particular case or filed complaint. This analysis should focus on any known case issues, as well as other areas of concern appreciated by the nurse reviewer. Any required chronologies or timelines are completed concurrently with the review. Although the reports should be thorough, many aspects of the medical record are immaterial and therefore should not be included. When the review is finished, the timeline should be edited for relevancy, with only information pertinent to the claim noted in the reports. The benefit of hiring a legal nurse consultant is that a nurse can sort out what is relevant to the case and bring out crucial details among the millions of data points in a medical record.
- Educate yourself about “Standards of Care.” The standards that nurses and other medical professions use are well documented and easily found with a well trained eye. Familiarize yourself with the industry standards and standards of care in different areas of medical and nursing care.
- Network! Join your non-profit professional organization, AALNC, and meet leaders in the Legal Nurse Consulting field. Attend conferences, forums, and meetings where you can meet colleagues and mentors, and introduce yourself to potential clients. Bring professional looking business cards and exchange them with potential colleagues and clients. Write a note to yourself on the back of each card so that you can remember something about each person you meet.
- Follow up. Using handwritten notes and professional social media, follow up with new contacts. Mention how you met and interesting takeaways from your conversation. Thank them for their time. Your relationships will help you find opportunity.
- Use Social Media Wisely. Create new LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook handles for your budding business. Keep your business and personal social media separate. Follow ALN Consulting on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook! Create your profile with a professional looking headshot in appropriate business attire. Most professionals will not connect to a profile with no picture, or an inappropriate picture (like vacation photos!). Contribute posts of interest in the Legal Nurse Consulting from the newspaper, professional journals, and professional websites by clicking on the share button. Add your own comments or questions about your post. You will become associated with the Legal Nurse Consulting profession and the newest and most reliable medical information.
- Subcontract with established Legal Nurse Consultants. “On-the-job” training is invaluable in your Legal Nurse Consultant career. Great experience is available with experienced colleagues. Legal Nurse Consultants with a lot of clients and projects will hire other Legal Nurse Consultants to help finish projects for a percentage of their hourly fee, and in this way a new Legal Nurse Consultant can learn a great deal from experienced Legal Nurse Consultants.