Legal nurse consultants serve as medical experts in legal cases. They help lawyers and other legal professionals interpret medical records and charts, understand the terminology and consult on healthcare-related topics, according to the Discover Nursing website. Registered nurses who want to enter the specialty of legal consulting have a variety of options. At the time of publication, national standards for the profession did not exist, and any nurse could enter the specialty simply by calling herself a legal nurse consultant, or LNC. Formal education is beneficial, however, as the law and medical care are very complex, and LNCs practice in both worlds.
Start with the Basics
Although any RN degree is acceptable for a legal nurse consultant, Discover Nursing recommends the prospective LNC should have either an associate of science or a bachelor of science in nursing, as well as at least five years of nursing experience. These recommendations are similar to those of the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board, which requires an active RN license, a minimum of five years of practice as an RN and a minimum of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consultant experience in the five years prior to the exam.
Preparing to Specialize
As the legal nurse consultant profession has become more common, universities and professional organizations have begun to offer educational programs targeted for LNCs or nurses who want to enter the specialty. The University of California at Riverside, for example, offers an 11.5-unit certificate program. Courses in the program include medical records review, report writing, forensic science, courtroom testimony, clinical ethics and criminal law. The course typically lasts four semesters and can be completed entirely online.
Do it Online
The University of Central Florida offers an online program designed for a student to work at her own pace, as the instruction is composed of online modules and videos. RNs who complete the course receive a certification of completion rather than a degree. The program is designed to prepare RNs to work in areas such as personal injury, medical malpractice, risk management, workers compensation, nursing home abuse, criminal cases and disciplinary hearings. The program had been in existence for six years at the time of publication, and RNs could earn 71 hours of continuing education units on completion of the program. UCF’s program focuses on nursing science related to legal nurse consulting.
Nurses Teaching Nurses
Duke University’s Certificate in Legal Nurse Consulting program was initiated in 2009 as a classroom program. An online version opened in the spring of 2012, according to the university website. The program is divided into six modules. All instructors are licensed RNs who have worked in the LNC capacity in private practice or for a law firm or health care organization. Duke’s program is designed to provide practical skills and legal knowledge and to teach RNs how to analyze health care issues and related outcomes.