The legal world and the medical world often overlap, such as in medical malpractice cases. However, since many lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and jury members aren’t always familiar with the world of medicine, they will often need help from an expert in that area. This is where legal nurse consultants come into play.

Earning a BSN is the recommended level of education for this career. See Programs >>
 

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What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?
What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?
Where Do Legal Nurse Consultants Work?
How Do I Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?

What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?

The special jargon and terminology used in the medical field is typically very difficult for most people to understand, including lawyers and other law professionals. Therefore, it’s often necessary for these individuals to have someone “translate” medical terminology during court cases that involve medical aspects. This is where legal nurse consultants come in.

A legal nurse consultant is an experienced professional in the nursing industry that is qualified to work as a legal consultant on medical cases. Nurse legal consultants may be current or former practicing nurses.

The main purpose of legal nurse consultants is to help law professionals understand and process legal information. They work to help bridge the gap between the fields of medicine and law. Not only are they experts in practical medicine, but they also usually have a firm grasp on the legal aspects of medicine and the healthcare industry.

Legal nurse consulting is a relatively new field, which started around the 1980s. Since then, legal nurse consultants have aided law professionals in everything from medical fraud cases to criminal cases.

What Does a Legal Nurse Consultant Do?

Legal nurse consultants work with law professionals and perform a variety of different services. They will often assist in medical malpractice cases, toxic torts, insurance fraud cases, personal injury cases, worker’s compensation cases, and criminal cases, among others.

One of their main responsibilities is to help lawyers gather and study evidence. They will often obtain medical records, for instance, which they can study for any information relevant to a court case or arbitration. They may be responsible for comparing a person’s medical records to allegations and deciding whether or not a case has enough merit or evidence to justify a legal procedure. They can also examine a person’s medical charts for signs of tampering or malpractice. A person’s medical history also sometimes has merit during legal cases involving helth issues. For example, a legal nurse consultant could find that a preexisting medical condition could be the cause of a serious medical problem, not medical malpractice.

Since law professionals were educated on the law and justice system instead of medicine, they will also usually need a legal nurse consultant to explain medical terms and procedures. The consultants will try to explain these sometimes difficult to understand terms and concepts in layman’s terms.

Legal nurse consultants might also be asked to find and interview witnesses for medical court cases as well. In some instances, a medical nurse consultant might be asked to act as an expert witness herself in order to explain medical jargon to judges and juries.

Where Do Legal Nurse Consultants Work?

As expected, legal nurse consultants can often find employment in a number of healthcare settings. This includes hospitals, clinics, and long-term patient care centers.

Health insurance companies and HMOs will also often hire legal nurse consultants, as will attorney firms, prosecution offices, and forensic departments. After gaining a decent amount of experience, legal nurse consultants can also usually open their own private consulting firms.

How Do I Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?

The majority of legal nurse consultants are active registered nurses (RNs), with a degree in nursing from either a nursing school or traditional university. In order to become a certified RN, individuals must pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). A few years of experience as a practicing nurse is also usually required by most employers.

Below is the educational path for a Legal Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

Although it’s not mandatory, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) offers a training course and certification examination for aspiring legal nurse consultants. In order to sit for this certification exam, you must have at least five years experience as a nurse as well as 2,000 hours of legal medical consulting three years prior to taking it.