A legal nurse consultant combines the best of both the medical and legal fields. He takes the medical expertise received through training as a nurse, including knowledge of medical terminology, and adds to it the underpinning of a lawyer's insight in order to help clients address a wide range of legal matters pertaining to health care.
A legal nurse consultant possesses two main skill sets, foremost being those obtained by becoming a licensed registered nurse. This gives her the ability to handle medical emergencies, tend to patients in both homes and hospitals, and work in fields such as rehabilitation, surgery and intensive care. As a consultant, the nurse adds skills and knowledge such as legal theory, litigation process and the ability to interpret medical records in light of the justice system.
A legal nurse consultant often interacts with and educates attorneys on the finer points of a medical situation. She reviews patient cases in search of any malpractice, checks medical records for tampering and acts as a go-between for patient representatives who most often do not have a thorough understanding of how to decipher medical histories and health care terminology.
Most often, legal nurse consultants begin as active registered nurses and add to their medical training through legal certification programs provided by as the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Becoming a registered nurse requires at least an associate's degree or 4-year bachelor's degree program. Once a nurse pursues the role of legal nurse consultant, he takes courses that provide training in areas such as criminal law, ethics and patient informed consent.
A legal nurse consultant often primarily works for a hospital or other medical institution as a full-time job, and performs the legal consulting business as an added role. The legal nurse consultant is hired by law firms, insurance companies and government agencies in order to perform research to try and prevent situations such as medical fraud, patient abuse and liability claims. Sometimes a legal nurse consultant is kept specifically on staff at a law firm for full-time review of cases.
An active registered nurse, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, is paid an average of £37,700 a year. This sum can be added to by legal nurse consulting, often at a rate of £65 to £162 per hour, depending on experience and case-by-case work requirements.