When it comes to nursing, there is no shortage of career path options. The versatility of a nursing degree leaves room for growth and innovation. A nursing specialty growing in popularity combines healthcare and legal expertise. Known as nurse attorneys, these healthcare professionals integrate their passion for healthcare with the law to enjoy the best of both fields.
In this article we explore:
- What does a nurse attorney do?
- Where do nurse attorneys work?
- How do you become a nurse attorney?
- How do you earn special certifications?
- How much does a nurse attorney make?
- What is the career outlook?
What does a nurse attorney do?
Patient outcomes depend on healthcare that is delivered according to safe practices. This requires medical professionals to strictly adhere to laws and regulations governing healthcare. Healthcare and law often intertwine, requiring the expertise of someone familiar with both. Some of the ways nurse attorneys use their skills include:
- Lobbying on behalf of healthcare organizations
- Representing healthcare providers who are defending against malpractice claims
- Reviewing medical records for insurance claims
- Serving as an expert witness
- Writing for legal and medical journals
- Working with risk management departments in hospitals and other large healthcare providers to ensure compliance with healthcare policies and best practices for patient care
Where do nurse attorneys work?
Nurse attorneys have the flexibility of working in either healthcare or legal settings. Crossing over between the two fields is a perk of becoming a nurse attorney.
For nurse attorneys who prefer the legal side of employment options, they can work for government agencies, insurance companies, and law firms. They can also go into private practice as nurse attorney consultants or write freelance for publications that focus on healthcare law and litigation.
Nurse attorneys who wish to work in a healthcare setting can work for clinics and hospitals, or in education. As with the legal side, they can also write freelance or serve as a source for healthcare-focused journals and other publications.
How do you become a nurse attorney?
Nurse attorneys must have a strong interest in both healthcare and the law. They must also commit to the extensive education required to work in this field, which requires both a nursing degree and a law degree. There are several ways to complete all requirements. It is important to choose the path that works best for your lifestyle and personal goals. Some of the most common paths to becoming a nurse attorney include:
1. Obtaining a nursing degree
Nurse attorneys can choose between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Nursing Degree (BSN). You may wish to pursue the BSN because it provides more comprehensive knowledge of nursing and healthcare, which is useful in positioning yourself as a legal expert in healthcare-related issues.
2. Becoming a licensed registered nurse (RN)
After completing your nursing degree, the next step is to become a licensed RN, which requires sitting for the NCLEX-RN exam.
3. Earning nursing experience
Some nurses choose to work in the healthcare field for a few years to gain experience while they pursue their law degrees. Working as a nurse makes you a stronger candidate as a nurse attorney.
4. Completing the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT)
When you are ready to begin your legal studies, you must first take the LSAT. Law schools require the LSAT as part of the application process. Other admission requirements may include:
- Bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Personal statement discussing your characteristics and personality
- Completed application packet that includes the LSAT
- Letter or letters of recommendation
Law school takes on average two to three years to complete. Nurses who graduate from law school will earn a Juris Doctor (JD) degree.
5. Taking the Bar Exam
Just like nurses must sit for the NCLEX to earn their nursing licensure, the same is true for lawyers. After successful completion of your law degree, you must take the Bar Exam for the state in which you intend to practice law. Several specialties of the Bar Exam are available. The Uniform Bar Exam and Multistate Bar Exam are just two examples, both of which make it easier to qualify to practice in several states.
How do you earn special certifications?
Holding dual degrees in nursing and the law is enough to work as a nurse attorney. Some nurse attorneys choose to pursue additional certifications or credentials in specific areas of healthcare. For instance, a nurse attorney who wishes to position themselves as an expert witness for malpractice lawsuits may wish to obtain certification as a Clinical Nurse Specialist. Another option is to become a Legal Nurse Consultant. These nurses 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.
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How much does a nurse attorney make?
The average annual salary for nurse attorneys is $83,534, according to data compiled by ZipRecruiter. Nurse attorneys with more experience can earn as much as $147,500. Some of the highest-paying cities for nurse attorneys include:
- Santa Clara, CA – $101,065
- San Francisco, CA – $101,034
- Fremont, CA – $97,049
- San Jose, CA – $94,948
- Alexandria, VA – $94,247
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What is the career outlook?
Demand for nursing professionals with RN licensure is set to grow 7% faster than other careers between now and 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can find nurse attorney jobs near you on the Incredible Health Nurse Jobs Board.
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