An introduction to legal nursing

Eye-opening hospital work experience
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Legal nursing is a highly specialised field that bridges the gap between medicine and the law. Lawyers, prosecutors and judges may be experts in legal matters but they are not always familiar with the field of medicine. When trying certain cases such as clinical negligence or malpractice, medical fraud or criminal cases, they often need expert help to understand complicated medical terminology or to interpret charts and records. This is where medical experts come into play. Nurses who work in legal nursing are called Legal Nurse Consultants.

What is a legal nurse consultant’s role in legal nursing?

Legal nurse consultants serve as the medical expert in legal cases. They help attorneys and other legal professionals in several different ways, depending on the case.

Some of the tasks you may do in this role include but are not limited to:

  • Researching and reviewing medical records
  • Helping lawyers and their clients understand various medical terms and procedures and their implications
  • Identifying standards of care
  • Investigating cases and preparing for trial
  • Testifying as an expert witness in court proceedings involving clinical negligence, medical malpractice, personal injury compensation, insurance fraud, suspicious death, abuse, worker’s compensation and other medical matters

Where do legal nurse consultants work?

Legal nurse consultants work in a wide range of settings. Some of the more common settings include large law firms, private lawyers’ offices, hospitals, clinics, insurance and pharmaceutical companies and governmental agencies.

While larger law firms, hospitals, insurance companies and governmental agencies may have legal nurse consultants on their permanent payroll, smaller law firms and private clinics tend to hire these specialists on a contract basis. Working on a contract allows these professionals to continue practising as a nurse while also taking up work on a need basis in legal nursing.

Another interesting aspect of legal nursing is that you will be able to find employment whether you are experienced in one speciality or multiple specialities. As a nurse with diverse experience, you could work with a legal firm that deals with a broader speciality such as insurance fraud or personal injury compensation. Specialist nurses are in greater demand by legal firms and other organisations that focus on a specific area. For example, a lawyer specialising in industrial injury cases may look for a nurse whose experience in occupational therapy. Another lawyer specialising in spinal injury cases may prefer to hire a nurse with experience in treating patients with spinal injuries.

Requirements of the job

To work as a legal nurse consultant you must be a Registered Nurse and have at least 5 years clinical experience. The job requires you to have extensive knowledge and experience in areas such as diagnoses, standards of care, surgeries and other medical procedures, which can only be acquired after spending considerable time in active practice. Without the necessary clinical experience, the chances of being hired for this position are very slim.

Excellent communication skills and a genuine love for medicine and law are absolutely necessary for anyone considering a career in legal nursing. You must also be prepared to spend long hours doing extensive research when working on a case.

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Gap Medics provides year-round hospital work experience for people aged 16 and over. Our shadowing placements offer a unique insight into the work of doctors, nurses, midwives and dentists – helping students to focus their career aspirations before embarking upon medical training.

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