What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
Doctor taking notes
Doctor taking notes

A large proportion of civil and criminal court cases involve some type of medical concern, including malpractice suits, personal injury claims, and worker's compensation disputes. A legal nurse consultant helps attorneys and judges understand complicated medical information as it pertains to such legal matters. Consultants rely on their extensive practical nursing experience to investigate and interpret medical records from a legal perspective. Most nurse consultants work for attorneys, insurance companies, and risk management divisions of hospitals, though some skilled experts operate their own independent consulting practices.

A legal nurse consultant brings an interesting, important perspective to legal investigations. A professional finds out facts about a case by looking through patient files, interviewing doctors and nurses, and evaluating the appropriateness of services rendered. He or she compiles reports and provides expert commentary regarding findings. With the information gathered by a legal nurse consultant, an attorney can put together an accurate, detailed case.

Since most lawyers and judges do not have extensive medical backgrounds, they rely on legal nurse consultants to explain technical details and educate them on medical matters. Similarly, a physician might need help from a legal nurse consultant to understand court charges and proceedings. Consultants often help attorneys prepare official statements and determine the most appropriate lines of questioning to use on witnesses and defendants. In addition, it is common for a legal nurse consultant to be asked to testify in court as an expert witness regarding medical issues.

A person who wants to become a legal nurse consultant must first complete the education and training requirements to earn registered nurse credentials. Several years of nursing experience are important to familiarize a prospective consultant with the policies, procedures, and legal aspects of the health-care industry. In order to make the transition from clinical nursing to legal consulting, a professional can take college courses designed for paralegals or enroll in a program specifically dedicated to training nurse consultants.

New legal nurse consultants in most countries are required to pass licensing or certification examinations to prove their expertise. Exams are administered by respected national organizations, such as the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board in the United States. After gaining certification, a new consultant can begin working at a law firm, insurance company, or hospital on relatively minor cases to gain practical experience. Established consultants who have gained respect in the field often start their own businesses, providing services to many different clients on a contract basis.

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