Lots of nurses are aware of legal nurse consulting. Many have taken a course to prepare for this field. Few are successful. Here are some tips for being a successful legal nurse consultant.
1. Current nursing license as a registered nurse.
Licensed practical nurses are not considered to have the requisite educational background to provide consulting services in this role.
2. 5 years of clinical experience.
The longer a nurse has been clinically active, the more knowledge and experience the nurse will bring to the evaluation of the attorney’s cases. Each year of clinical service results in a vast wealth of knowledge.
Certification in a specialty area of nursing is definitely a plus. Certification validates competency in a specialty area and is independent of the state licensure. The type of clinical experience may vary.
Nurses with experience in orthopaedics, for example, have great value to add to many personal injury cases. Nurses with labor and delivery expertise may wish to be expert witnesses or work for a firm that focuses on medical malpractice associated with birth injury.
3. Some type of preparation
Routes into the field of legal nurse consulting vary. Some people learn best by reading and welcome the resources in the Starter Course.
My course uses texts, videos and webinars. Others learn from online courses, webinars, college, multi-day or weekend courses. Before you get out your credit card, carefully consider the total investment in terms of time and money.
3. Start slowly to be a successful legal nurse consultant
As your business grows, a common growth pattern is to add secretarial support first, then become affiliated with a partner or nurses who will serve as subcontractors. These subcontractor nurses will ordinarily perform legal nurse consulting services for you on a per project basis. As the business expands, you may add nurses as part-time or full-time employees and will then be responsible for paying salaries, benefits, and taxes for these assistants.
5. Good written and oral communication skills
A successful legal nurse consultant is an active listener. Good communication skills are important when working with the attorney, communicating with the client, or talking with the various physicians, nurses, scientific or healthcare provider experts, and defendants.
You must be able to teach the attorney scientific and medical information so that the attorney can use it to review, litigate, settle, or defend a case. It is imperative that you are able to put complex, confusing information into words easily understood by the lay person.
You should possess the skills to accurately proofread various documents and be able to amend documents without modifying the specific content.
6. Organized and analytical
The ability to take complex information and organize it in a logical fashion is one of the most important skills you bring to the legal arena. Organizational skills assist you when sorting through and organizing medical records, developing case strategies, suggesting which expert witnesses to retain in what order, and managing the volume of paper generated by a lawsuit.
In many nursing malpractice cases the records tend to be voluminous and repetitive. You should possess the skills needed to organize this material into a format which makes it easier to review.
You are called upon to ferret out medical information, develop exhibits, and suggest case strategies. A successful legal nurse consultant connects with other LNCs through list servs, American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants chapters, and other means.
8. Easy to work with
Rarely can nurses choose to not care for a difficult patient. They may develop a plan of care to deal with the angry, manipulative, or withdrawn patient. Attorneys experiencing the pressures of practicing law, taking depositions, or preparing for trial or settlement conferences can experience stress that manifests itself in a variety of ways.
The LNC is often a helpful support person in these circumstances. You have to be able to work with a range of personalities, some of whom are challenging, and some who flare under tight deadlines and stress. Not every nurse has the ability to be a LNC. The special communication skills, detective-like thinking, detail-oriented behavior, and ability to teach and research are not universally present in all nurses.
9. Strong research skills
Strong Internet search skills are a must including those needed for medical literature searches, obtaining hard copies of journal articles and medical text books, locating current contact information for medical providers and doing background checks of defendant physicians and opposing counsel’s experts.
It takes effort, the ability to deal with rejection, and resourcefulness to launch and sustain an LNC practice. It takes persistence to plow though voluminous medical records, to find the details that are important for a case. It takes persistence to manage your office practices, to obtain and satisfy your clients. It is well worth it.
Abstracted from Pat Iyer and Deborah D’Andrea, “Working with LNCs” in Pat Iyer, Barbara Levin, Kathleen Ashton and Victoria Powell (Editors), Nursing Malpractice, 4th edition
Learn how dozens of legal nurse consultants became successful. Buy The Path to Legal Nurse Consulting: Collective Wisdom of Successful LNCs, Second edition. Pat Iyer sought out successful legal nurse consultants and collected their stories. You will be inspired by them.