A legal nurse is an experienced registered nurse who brings his/her medical training and education into the legal field and acts as a consultant for legal matters and/or cases where the presence of a medical expert would be beneficial.
In terms of their history legal nursing is a relatively new field for registered nurses.
In fact legal nurse consultations only first began in the mid 1980’s as a way to provide lawyers and clients with better and more accurate information regarding their case.
These nurses often use their expertise to aid attorneys in medical injuries and/or abuse cases and will assist by using their medical knowledge to assess the legitimacy of the case, maintain legal and medical records, research the clients and/or accusers medical history, assist in helping attorneys understand complex medical terms and bring their knowledge to a host of other medical factors that may play a role in a potential case.
While legal nurses and legal attorneys are experts in their own fields they often lack the expertise needed to bring all of the legal and medical elements needed into the case if they were to work alone, and by working solo the attorney may signficantly hurt their chances of creating a successful case.
The substantial increases in knowledge and information these two experts acquire by working with one another allows them to bring a much clearer view into the case and provides them with much more information, better legal assessments and higher quality evidence which ultimately allows them to provide their clients with the best possible results.
For this reason it is becoming much more common to see these experts working side by side to solve legal cases where a medical expert may be beneficial to the outcome of the case.
Becoming a legal nurse
In order to become a legal nurse you must first be certified and experienced as a registered nurse with at least a bachelor’s degree.
From there it is important to take as many continued education courses in the field related to legal nursing as possible.
The more experience you acquire the better.
Since this is such a new field in nursing there are still a lot of questions about what is required to become a legal nurse.
Registered nurses that would like to get into this field of work may want to take a specialized nurse consultancy program which may be offered at a variety of Universities or Legal Nurse Consulting Educational Centers as well as participate in workshops and seminars that are geared towards education and training nurses in the field of legal nursing.
For those who are looking to get professionally certified the American Society of Legal Nurse Consultants offers certificates for nurses who are able to meet their standards and pass their exams.
While it isn’t completely necessary to have a formal background in legal nursing those who have proven their knowledge and experience in this field have the best opportunities to get hired and are often paid the best wages.
Because of the need for a good understanding of this specialized field of nursing at the very least it is a good idea to attend a variety of workshops and seminars to get a better understanding of what these nurses do and what areas of medical study are most important for being successful in this line of work.
You may also want to speak with several lawyers/attorneys and legal nurses who work in this area of expertise to see what education and experience they feel is most important in legal nursing.
After acquiring the educational background and/or certifications needed to become a legal nurse some nurses will branch off on their own and do their own consulting for agencies looking to hire them on a per case bases.
Legal nurses can make any where from $100 – $150 per hour or more for their assistance, advice and medical expertise.
Some nurses have also found it to be much more sustainable to be a legal nurse compared to other fields of nursing because they have the flexibility of choosing how many cases they want to work and thus being able to work fewer hours and enjoy more of life.
In addition to working as a legal nurse these nurses may also decide to work a secondary position at a hospital or health care facility in addition to their position as legal nurse consultants.