Nurses in the Legal Field
Legal nurses provide support to legal professionals, such as lawyers and insurance adjusters. In the past, only physicians were hired to give opinions on merit based on the standards of medical care, but nurses now determine merit and adherence to the standards.
In the early 1970s, insurance companies seeking to reduce their expenses, hired medical teams to manage the medical care of the claimant and hopefully, lessen the permanent disability. These teams consisted of rehabilitation nurses and physiatrists (MD specializing in rehabilitation).
In 1972, I became one of 13 rehab nurses hired by one of the big five insurance companies at the time. In my company, the country was divided into regions, and my region was the Southeast. The job was new, and the description was evolving. My objective was to get the claimant as well as possible, as quickly as possible, with as little disability as possible. Under the physician’s supervision, I directed the patient’s care from the onset of their injury and worked closely with the attorneys. To my knowledge, this was the beginning of the legal nurse. The following are some examples of legal nurses and what they do. Most legal nurses do many jobs and work with the attorney early in the case to the end.
- Legal nurse consultants review cases that involve injury and provide an insider’s view of the medical aspects of a case.
- Nurse paralegals review cases and offer opinions based on their legal and medical knowledge.
- Life care planners develop financial plans for the future care of an injured person. These plans are used mostly in litigation.
- Case managers work for insurance companies or for the patients themselves, and plan the patients’ care.
- Rehabilitation nurses plan the care of an injured patient when there is potential to lessen the disability.
- Elder care managers work with the geriatric population and plan their care. They are usually hired by the person responsible for paying for the care. This may be a family member or an elder care attorney managing a trust.
- Forensic nurses work with patients who are allegedly victims of criminal acts.
- Medicare set-aside consultants develop a portion of a financial plan that outlines the amount of money to be set aside for future medical care.
The work status of the legal nurse can be as an employee or independent contractor. Consultants usually work out of their home or in a private office. Some legal nurses only work with the medical record and never see patients. A legal nurse working full time as a consultant can make $100,000 or more a year.
You don’t need more formal education or degrees to practice in the legal field. You do need to be an RN and know how to do the job. You can learn from a book, by taking a course, or by working with an experienced nurse or attorney who will mentor you. You don’t need to be certified.
If you are interested in learning more about legal nursing, browse the website of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants at http://www.aalnc.org. See if they have local meetings, and ask if you can visit.