Legal nurse consulting plays a powerful role in the litigation process by bridging the gap between medicine and the judicial system. Legal nurse consultants are licensed RNs with specialized training and use their clinical experience and specialized education to interpret, research and analyze medical-related issues relevant to a legal case or claim. Based on their investigations, they provide an informed opinion on the delivery of health care and its results.
With an established code of ethics and conduct, legal nurse consultants practice their critical trade in the following environments:
- Law firms
- Government offices
- Insurance companies
- Hospital risk management departments and HMOs
- Consulting firms
- Independent practices
In each of these environments, LNCs fulfill a number of roles and carry out an extensive list of responsibilities.
Now, let's take a look at the top five responsibilities to get an overview of the legal nurse consulting profession.
1. Reviewing Medical Records
Searching for the medical and nursing issues relevant to a case, legal nurse consultants review medical records to help determine whether professional negligence occurred, to summarize injuries and treatment and to identify any missing or tampered records. Medical records also offer a legal nurse consultant insight into the standard of health care provided to a client.
2. Educating Colleagues
In the process of deciphering a case, legal nurse consultants educate attorneys regarding medical facts, timelines, treatments, nursing terminology and other relevant health care information. Furthermore, their legal nurse consultant degree and experience gives them the background to serve as liaisons between the attorneys, physicians and clients involved in a particular case or claim.
3. Investigating Cases
Investigation plays a major role in the world of legal nurse consulting. As case investigators, legal nurse consultants may provide professional services such as these:
- Research compensation and disability claims to determine whether claims have merit
- Examine cases involving fraud and abuse of government funded agencies, including Medicare and Medicaid
- Conduct inquiries into potential misconduct on the part of a health care practitioner or facility
4. Preparing for Trials
For cases that go to trial, legal nurse consultants may prepare medical fact reports and summaries, chronologies of medical events, graphic exhibits and other evidence. They may also draft questions for attorneys to use during medical depositions, interview parties involved in a case and prepare witnesses for testifying at trial.
5. Testifying as an Expert Witness
Attorneys may call legal nurse consulting experts as witnesses at trial to provide facts, data and opinions based on case evidence. Along with offering testimony, a legal nurse consultant's job may involve locating and retaining expert witnesses who can offer specialized insight and knowledge relevant to the circumstances of a case.
With 25 percent of attorneys in practice dealing with medically related cases, the market for professionals with a legal nurse consultant degree holds strong. The breadth and intrigue that surrounds the field promises a stimulating career—not to mention the rewards that come with making an impact on the standards of practice applied in both the health care and justice systems.
Sources: American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants; Lora Lee Grutkowski, Certified Legal Nurse Consultant; Medical-Legal Consulting Institute, Inc.