How Do I Become a Legal Nurse Consultant?
Imagine for a moment this scenario: the recent recipient of a tracheotomy, a surgical procedure that creates an opening in the windpipe (which lies directly under the skin of the neck), requires continuous oxygen through his trach tube in order to breathe. His home care aid worker visits, noting nothing out of the ordinary and recording in her daily journal that she tidied up the hallway and a few rooms before she left.
It’s just another day. Then, while watching TV, the tracheotomy recipient attempts to clear his throat, suddenly coughing hard a few times and ejecting his trach tube. Since he’s newly come home and this has never happened before, he panics and can’t get the tube back in, like the doctor showed him before he left the hospital. He calls 911, but by the time the paramedics arrive, he’s on the floor without a pulse.
Because of the nature of this case, someone with distinguished experience in the medical field is needed to screen, research and analyze the situation. It requires an expert who can process not only the physical but the legal. This is the type of case that calls for a legal nurse consultant (LNC), a practicing nurse who is oftentimes also specifically trained to consult with and assist attorneys in medical-related legal cases.
LNCs practicing independently usually charge rates (as opposed to receiving salary up to $150 per hour. Along with lending their expertise in the pursuit of justice, LNC hours can be much less demanding than the traditionally long, sleep-deprived shifts hospital nurses work. It’s a great career for the right people, so how do you become an LNC? There are some important steps you have to take before joining the legal nurse consultation profession.
Be a Nurse
This might be a no-brainer, but it’s best not to take chances. In order to pursue legal nurse consultation, you must already be a registered nurse with, it’s recommended, at least three years of nursing work under your belt. As with most careers, the more experience you have, the better, so if you have a Master of Public Health (MPH) or Master of Nursing (MSN) degree or any advanced degree in the medical field, you are demonstrating that much more expertise and knowledge and become that much more attractive to a potential employer.
Believe it or not, this is as far as the official requirements for legal nurse consultation go. Advanced degrees help, but they’re not necessary. Still, there are a few more steps you can take to be at the very top of your field.
Practice Public Speaking
With LNCs often called to take the stand in court and serve as expert eyewitnesses, it’s essential that you be able to speak clearly and make yourself well-understood. Simple nerves or intense questioning can make even the best-prepared LNC flustered and halting, so you wouldn’t be remiss signing up for a public speaking course at a local college. If you want to be believable and reassuring on the stand, practice under pressure makes perfect.
Take an LNC Program
Perhaps the very best preparation for a career in legal nurse consultation is to become certified through an LNC course. Not to worry if you’re pressed for time or you’re nowhere near a university – respected LNC certification programs can be found online, like those which can be taken through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) website.
If you’re able to travel or lucky enough to live close to a university or community college, the coursework can be found within legal career studies; another option is a program like that offered by Vickie Milazzo, a successful LNC who turned her profession into a business which is endorsed by the National Alliance of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (NACLNC).
Students of LNC training programs learn how to thoroughly analyze medical records, perform medical and legal research, prepare for trials and write summaries, among many other essential tasks that will help them assist attorneys. The coursework also gives the LNC the tools and skills to create medical fact reports, chronologies of medical events and other evidence that would aid in a trial situation.