Nurse Types / Legal Nurse Consultant
Legal Nurse Consultants (LNCs) are licensed registered nurses (RNs) who provide critical analysis of clinical issues in a legal setting. They may testify as an expert witness in a court case about a victim’s injuries or attend independent medical exams as a neutral third party.
LNCs have an in-depth knowledge of the healthcare system, medicine, and nursing. They can work as independent consultants, or for insurance companies and legal firms.
In this nursing role, you’ll bridge the gap between healthcare science, the legal process, and patient outcomes, making you uniquely qualified to serve as a member of a legal team in any setting.
In this article you can learn:
- What is a legal nurse consultant?
- What do legal nurse consultants do?
- Where do legal nurse consultants work?
- What are closely related fields?
- How do you become a legal nurse consultant in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of legal nurse consultants?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for legal nurse consultants?
What is a legal nurse consultant?
Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses who use their clinical expertise to help in legal cases where their knowledge can be beneficial to supporting a case. They can testify in court on behalf of a plaintiff or prosecutor or oversee independent medical exams as a neutral observer to meet legal requirements.
Qualities of a successful legal nurse consultant
Legal nurse consultants must have a deep understanding of the healthcare system, medicine, and nursing best practices to be effective in their roles.
Some of the other qualities that make legal nurse consultants successful include:
- Good communicator. Part of your job may require testifying in court. You must be able to explain medical terminology simply so that jurors and others unfamiliar with medicine can understand your testimony.
- Resourceful. When serving as an expert witness, you might need to develop exhibits or suggest case strategies. Being resourceful can help you find the information you need to support your testimony.
- Strong organizational skills. Taking complex information and organizing it in a way that makes sense to others is a key part of your job. You must have strong organizational skills to pull it off.
What do legal nurse consultants do?
The role of a legal nurse consultant continually evolves because of the changing nature of the healthcare and legal arenas. Regardless of their job responsibilities or areas of practice, LNCs must keep a calm demeanor and function well under pressure.
LNCs can work on civil rights cases, employment discrimination suits, product liability allegations, and workers’ compensation claims, among other legal practice areas.
Best practices advise legal nurse consultants to work only on cases in which they have a solid clinical foundation. For the most well-rounded experience, LNCs should focus on intensive care or medical-surgical nursing during their studies. These fields expose nurses to many types of conditions allowing them to glean varied information related to nursing.
A day in the life of a legal nurse consultant
There is no such thing as a typical day in the life of a legal nurse consultant. Due to the nature of the job, you may be testifying in court one day, and overseeing an autopsy as a neutral third party the next.
Daily duties can depend on whether you work for yourself or someone else. However, some of the most common duties for legal nurse consultants include:
- Classifying medical professional standards of practice
- Conducting client interviews and medical literature reviews
- Educating attorneys and other legal representatives about medical issues
- Identifying expert witnesses and securing their testimony for court proceedings
- Preparing for depositions and trials
- Producing exhibits for depositions and trials
- Reviewing and analyzing medical records
- Serving as a jury consultant for a legal team
- Testifying as an expert witness for depositions and trials
Where do legal nurse consultants work?
Legal nurse consultants have options on where – and how – they can use their expertise. Some of the most common employment opportunities include:
- Consulting firms
- Forensic organizations
- Government agencies
- Healthcare facilities
- Patient safety organizations
You also have the option to work for yourself as an independent legal nurse consultant.
What are closely related fields?
One of the most closely related fields to legal nurse consulting is corporate nurse consultant (CNCs). In this nursing role, you use your technical expertise and instructional skills to develop educational programs for corporations and their employees that align with policies and regulations.
CNCs are registered nurses, so the steps you must take to work in this field are similar to those for becoming a legal nurse consultant.
How do you become a legal nurse consultant in 3 steps?
To work as a legal nurse consultant, you must first become a licensed registered nurse (RN). Exact requirements may vary by state, but all follow similar steps.
You must check with the licensing board for your state to verify the prerequisites before you begin the process.
Here are some of the most common paths to becoming an LNC.
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
The first step in your journey to a career as a legal nurse consultant is to become a registered nurse (RN).
Earn a degree
Some states like Kansas, Minnesota, Nebraska, and New York require nursing candidates to earn a BSN before they can sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Other states may only require an ADN.
Even in states where a BSN is not required to become an RN, nursing candidates should consider taking this extra step. Earning a BSN opens the door to jobs with greater responsibilities and higher salaries.
There is a popular bridge program to go from an RN to a BSN. This allows you to earn a bachelor’s degree in about 12-18 months.
If you already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing discipline, you may qualify for an Accelerated BSN program. These 12-to-18-month programs allow you to focus on healthcare and nursing skills needed for your new career.
Pass the NCLEX exam
Once you complete your nursing education, you must pass the NCLEX exam to become a registered nurse. An RN license is required to work as a legal nurse consultant so this is not a step you can skip.
The NCLEX exam is designed to test your nursing knowledge in an adaptive format. For every question you answer correctly, the difficulty increases. At least 75 questions must be answered to pass the test.
If you fail on your first attempt, you can retake the exam after a 45-day waiting period.
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Step 2 – Accumulate experience
Once you have your RN license, you must accumulate relevant experience in your field before you can work as a legal nurse consultant. If you plan to seek Legal Nurse Consultant Certification (LNCC), you’ll need a minimum of 5 years of experience as an RN to qualify.
Helpful skills and experience
You can work in any environment as an RN to gain the experience you need to become a certified legal nurse consultant. However, some healthcare settings are more beneficial than others to your future career.
Working in an emergency room or ICU provides exposure to a variety of healthcare conditions and patients, which can help you build your knowledge base.
Changing specialty to a legal nurse consultant
One of the easiest transitions to make if you’re an RN considering changing your specialty is to go from medical-surgical to legal nurse consultant.
Med-surg nurses have broad knowledge of several health conditions, ideally positioning them to serve as experts in their field.
If you already have your RN license, changing from med-surg to legal nurse consultant requires meeting minimum RN clinical hours to qualify. While not required, you may want to seek your Legal Nurse Consultant Certification to prove competency.
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
Certification is not required to work as a legal nurse consultant. LNCs who wish to demonstrate their commitment to the profession and adherence to best practices may choose to take this extra step.
The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) is the certifying body for the Legal Nurse Consultant Certification. Nurses who pursue certification will take an exam based on an analysis of legal nurse consulting practice.
The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions in the form of case studies. It takes about four hours to complete the exam.
Certification lasts five years and can be renewed at the end of the term. Recertification eligibility requires that LNCs meet the following criteria:
- Hold a current, unrestricted RN license
- Complete 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting practice work within the five years of their original certification period
- Finish 60 contact hours that meet published criteria
- Pass the LNCC certification exam
Legal nurse consultants can learn more about the certification and recertification process on the AALNC website.
What are additional requirements of legal nurse consultants?
Like all nursing professionals, legal nurse consultants must maintain their license to practice. Most state licensing bodies require RNs to complete continuing education courses for renewal.
What are the salary and career outlooks for legal nurse consultants?
Your level of education and years of experience affect your salary range as a legal nurse consultant. Other factors that influence salary include geographic location and the size of the employer.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that any nursing career that requires RN licensure will grow by at least 6% between 2021 and 2031.
With demand high, legal nurse consultants should choose employers that offer the best benefits. Supporting professional development, providing tuition reimbursement, and offering paid time off are all perks of an attractive employer.
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Legal nurse consultants appreciate the flexibility and diversity of their jobs, which leads to higher levels of job satisfaction. With a high level of autonomy and the ability to help others with your nursing knowledge, working as an LNC can be the change you need to find fulfillment in your career again.
Opportunities for advancement are plentiful when you work as a legal nurse consultant. One of the most natural transitions can be moving from an LNC to a nurse attorney.
Becoming a nurse attorney requires you to have dual degrees: one in nursing and one in law. You must be a licensed RN and hold a BSN degree on the nursing side.
All states except California, Virginia, and Washington require you to attend law school before you can take the bar exam to earn your law license. Completing law school can take an additional 3 years of full-time study.
You can always consult other nursing professionals to see if becoming a legal nurse consultant is the right path for you.
A legal nurse consultant is a registered nurse (RN) who specializes in providing their expertise in the legal arena. This can include testifying in court or overseeing an autopsy as a neutral third-party observer.
The average salary for LNCs is about $78,999. The range is between $70,869 and $90,312.
Legal nurse consultants must earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and hold an RN licensure to practice.
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- Legal Nurse Consultant Salary in the United States. salary.com. Accessed November 11, 2022.
- LNCC® Certification. aalnc.org. Accessed November 11, 2022.
- Passing Standard. ncsbn.org. Accessed November 11, 2022.
- Registered Nurses Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2021. bls.gov. Accessed November 16, 2022.
- Registered Nurses Occupational Outlook Handbook. bls.gov. Accessed November 11, 2022.
- What is a Corporate Nurse Consultant and How to Become One. ziprecruiter.com. Accessed November 11, 2022.