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What Issues will a Legal Nurse Consultant Face?

Career News August 8, 2013

A legal nurse consultant (LNC) is a powerful asset for an attorney handling cases that involve nursing issues or who requires assistance in medical document review. Technically, a LNC is a registered nurse with experience dealing with hospital patients. She must graduate from an accredited school and take the state board exam for certification like any nursing professional. In addition, the LNC has the opportunity to get specialty training in the legal-medical field while obtaining continuing nursing credits, according to the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. The LNC serves as a bridge between the medical and legal communities.

Medical Terminology

The medical world has its own language. Professionals in any healthcare role study medical terminology, but to those in the legal field, it might look like a foreign language. One issue that comes up for consultants is the translation of medical jargon into something a layperson can understand. This effort may be strictly for the benefit of the attorney or part of evidence presented in a court case – any situation that requires a non-medical person to understand medical documents and language.

Case Evaluation

Not everyone who feels they have a legal claim truly does, especially when it comes to medical and nursing issues. A legal nurse consultant may determine if a potential litigation has merit. Usually, this is a malpractice claim or another form of medical proceeding. As a registered nurse, the LNC has access to standards and universal protocols that define proper care. She has the training to look at diagnostic criteria and determine if the physician was within reason when developing the care plan for his patient.

Even if treatment issues arise, or a doctor misinterprets a symptom, that doesn’t necessarily translate into malpractice. The law says medical personnel must act within standards and follow certain protocols in treatment. Hospital patients and their families don’t always understand the legalities behind medical litigation. A LNC can examine all the documents and tests then explain the details to those seeking retribution.

Discovery

The LNC who works on case discovery helps gather and interrupt evidence for either side of the judicial system. Discovery requires that attorneys in a case share their evidence with opposing counsel. The legal nurse consultant breaks down the discovery material and provides relevant medical information to either dispute or support the allegations. For example, if a plaintiff claims a back injury from a car accident, the nurse can examine the medical records and notes about the lifestyle to see if they support the assertion. The LNC would provide resources used in court that disproves or bolsters the medical inferences in the discovery material.

Risk Management

Issues faced by the legal nurse consultant can be proactive instead of reactive. Government agencies and insurance companies contract LNC professionals to review protocols and audit practices of clinics, healthcare facilities, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes. Unlike other missions the LNC encounters, risk management is about stopping issues before they happen. The nurse reviews charts and documentation to see that standards are met in each case. A consultant may sit in during meetings or planning sessions to give recommendations that define quality procedures to lower risks.

Even corporations make use of risk management evaluations for disaster planning or lifestyle assessment. Any time an employer creates change to improve employee health and safety; they potentially reduce the risk of legal action against them.

A legal nurse consultant has practical application in a variety of industries both in and out of the medical community. They work on medical-legal matters in categories such as:

•Workmen’s Compensation
•Medical Malpractice
•Toxic Torts
•Product Liability
•Risk Assessment
•Fraud
•Elderly, Domestic and Child Abuse
•Forensics
•Criminal Law

This nursing specialty is ideal for the RN who wants to expand outside the box of traditional studies. Certification increases job possibilities, as well. Nurses with CLNC accreditation might find employment in civil service, law firms, consulting agencies and insurance companies. Nursing is a career path that opens up many doors, especially for the professional that takes their education a step further to focus on legal issues.

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