What is a Legal Nurse Consultant
The position of a legal nurse consultant (LNC) is distinct from that of a legal assistant or paralegal in a number of ways. The AALNC (American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants views legal nurse consulting as a nursing specialty and not as a subcategory of the paralegal or legal secretary professions.
Their rationalization for this is that those in the law industry consult people in other professions, like psychologists, for their expertise in the subject matter. Likewise, legal nurse consultants provide their expertise in medical care and nursing. Nurses typically have advanced degrees in their fields and sometimes additional specialized training. LNCs either work as independent contractors or they are employed by a company like a law firm, hospital, or insurance company in a position that utilizes their specific expertise.
To become a paralegal or a legal secretary, you must obtain an education in the law. Typically people complete these programs at colleges or universities. In contrast to that, legal nurse consultants are not required to get a formal education in law. However, it is immensely beneficial to do so. While many LNCs obtain knowledge of the law by consulting with lawyers, law enforcement officials and participating in seminars, programs offered by post-secondary schools often offer a more comprehensive education on relevant subjects.
The unique combination of medical and legal knowledge makes LNCs valuable assets to any company, which is why man companies prefer to hire nurses with degrees in the legal field.
According to the AALNC, the main duty of a legal nurse consultant is to analyze the available information and provide an informed option about the quality of medical care given and the outcome that resulted from that care.
Here is a list of duties performed by legal nurse consultants that help distinguish it from other legal professions:
- Works with legal professionals on the resolution of healthcare-related litigation or other matters
- Provide expert knowledge about the medical facts and issues of the case or claim
- Research and apply the medical practices, guidelines, regulations, and standards relevant to the claim or case
- Identify, locate, and evaluate expert witnesses
- Evaluate causation of damages related to the liability of the parties involved
- Review, analyze, and summarize relevant medical and legal documentation, such as medical records, to support or disprove the allegations
- Interview and/or depose relevant witnesses and experts
- Write legal documents related to medical cases
- Work on strategies with attorneys and others involved in the case or claim
- Provide expert testimony during hearings, trials, depositions, and arbitrations
- Contact relevant providers to obtain demonstrative evidence or obtain pricing information for medical care, equipment, or supplies
Sometimes confusion about the role of legal nurse consultants occur because some of the work they do overlaps into the territory of paralegals and legal assistants, especially if the LNC works in a small office. Another point of confusion is the legal education programs offered to nurses. It is important that the legal nurse consulting program be significantly different than and considered separate from those offered to paralegals or legal secretaries. Because of the differences in the professions, an LNC educational program should build upon and complement the nurse’s existing medical education.
Interestingly, the American Bar Association defines legal nurse consultants as falling within the realm of paralegal/legal assistant, which directly contradicts the position of the AALNC. Additionally, the ABA requires that programs designed to train paralegals and legal secretaries meet ABA guidelines and must be approved by the association. The AALNC does not require programs for LNCs to be approved by the ABA.
The AALNC stands by its position that legal nurse consulting is a specialty of nursing and any educational programs designed for it should be presented as such and administered by nurse and legal educators.