I often get asked to help legal nurse consultants and nurse writers with reports, journal submissions, theses, dissertations, or book chapters. These are some of my favorite hints to help them engage their readers with clarity and precision and avoid common writing traps for LNCs. Legal nurse consultants: take note. These tips will help you in your report writing for your legal nurse consulting clients.
1. Consider your reader
The first common writing traps for LNCs is to not consider your reader. Your attorney/legal nurse consulting clients probably know less about what you know than you do, even if they may have some of the vocabulary down pat. Don’t confuse them. Write for their level of understanding and make a special effort to be clear. Define terms and acronyms on first use. Italics are helpful to draw attention to new words and cause the reader to pause, increasing understanding.
This is an example of helpful writing: Mrs. H was diagnosed with anterior cord syndrome, which is the result of an incomplete spinal cord injury. It is a set of symptoms caused by damage to the anterior (front) part of the spinal cord. This cut her motor nerves, so she is paralyzed below the level of her injury. She also has lost the sensation of pain and temperature below the level of her injury, so she cannot avoid injury by feeling pain. She can feel the position of her body in space (proprioception), because the part of her spinal cord that carries those sensations is intact.
2. Lead your legal nurse consulting client down a clear path
Think about traveling to a new destination: After starting in familiar surroundings, you meet novel experiences and vistas and relate them to what you already know. So too with writing. Start your paragraph with words and information your attorney readers already know and understand, and lead them to new vocabulary and concepts at the end. This will help you avoid the common writing traps for LNCs of not outlining your content.
Example: Mr. B will need home modifications. In addition to ramps and an accessible bathroom, he should have means to give him greater independence to set heating, cooling, and lighting; turn appliances on and off; lock, unlock, and open doors; and use the telephone, television, and computer. An environmental control unit is a customized system of sensors, switches, and computerized components, designed for his individual abilities, to allow him to control these.
3. Simplify, simplify, simplify
Like roses and fruit trees, your work will probably benefit by judicious pruning. Believe it or not, you can often cut 20% (or more) of your text with no loss of content. Your legal nurse consulting writing will clearer and more effective and you will avoid the common writing traps for LNCs of being verbose.
Before Example: Back pain is a significant health care problem affecting many persons of adult age. It is well recognized by clinicians as having physiological, psychological and social contributing factors. What can be easily overlooked in the clinical area however, is that pain severity is not the only contributor to functional decline, variables with psychological and social underpinnings impact disability and need to be addressed early during patient encounters. (67 words)
After Example: Back pain is a significant healthcare problem with well-recognized physiological, psychological, and social contributing factors. However, clinicians often forget that pain severity is not the only cause of functional decline; they should also address psychological and social variables’ effect on disability. (43 words)
Wendie Howland MN RN-BC CRRN CCM CNLCP LNCC is the editor of the JLNC and the JNLCP, and owner of Howland Health Consulting, a nurse-owned business providing legal nurse consulting and nurse life care planning for plaintiff and defense nationwide. She is happy to be reached at her office on Cape Cod at 866-604-9055, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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