As I revised The Path to Legal Nurse Consulting for the second edition, I asked legal nurse consultants to share their advice for people entering the field now. Here is what they had to say.
I would spend far less time on marketing and more time on developing my work product. It may sound backwards, but if you spend all of your resources on finding consulting work before understanding how to do it, you will struggle. The lack of a fully developed work product may end with fewer referrals once that first opportunity arrives. Learn from those who have mastered the art of reviewing medical records and writing reports on the standard of care. I believe it is more important to find a mentor before you find your first case.
C. Scott Rajnic
I don’t pretend to have the business of legal nurse consulting figured out. If I had the chance to relive my transition into the LNC world, I would do three things differently.
• I would interview more nurses who had traveled this road before me, regarding their journey (the nurses I interviewed had all done the same course).
• I would seek out a coach. I thought I was getting mentorship through my training program, but it didn’t fit my needs like I thought.
• I would join the AALNC from the beginning. The people I have met through this association are the real deal. The knowledge and expertise represented are second to none.
I would initially seek employment in a law firm as a full time LNC. Having the opportunity to be a part of a legal team is an invaluable skill. It provides the new LNC a view from a legal perspective, as you learn what it is the attorney wants and needs, and it allows you to demonstrate your value as a medical professional. You become a resource that the legal team relies on to function at its best, thereby increasing the visibility of the LNC profession, and nurses in general. It also provides you the opportunity to utilize your nursing knowledge and skills to TEACH the attorney and support staff what they really “don’t know”.
As with any new area of nursing, you gain skills with practice, and the opportunity to put your knowledge and skills to the test. If you take any course learning to practice as an LNC, it really does not begin to make sense until you put that knowledge into practice. I think experience in a law firm helps a nurse see what the legal professional needs when deciphering a medical case, and it helps clarify what you bring to the table as a nursing professional. As a nurse, you know what the standard of care is in most situations, you understand the rationale behind the care that is being provided, and you have a unique perspective on the pathophysiology of what is happening from a disease perspective. Just remember, let the lawyer practice the law and let the nurse help decipher the medical information.
Once the LNC gains exposure to the legal environment, and its processes and procedures, confidence in offering your nursing opinion soars. For the new LNC it also allows you to potentially have full time employment with benefits. So many new LNCs throw in the towel because they cannot generate enough income to sustain their livelihood. It is a good way to break into the industry and learn how to practice as an LNC. Once you gain that knowledge and experience, it makes it easier to practice independently.
Another opportunity is to look for part time positions that subcontract work through large law firms. A temporary assignment allows you to begin developing a work product that meets the legal teams’ needs because the firm dictates the format, and you get feedback about what you produce to help you become more efficient. Those skills will really help you to hone in on what is most important to the attorney and increase your worth if you do move into independent practice.
Pat Iyer MSN RN LNCC is the president of the Pat Iyer Group, and founder of a successful LNC business she sold in 2015.