It proves quite challenging for one to establish exactly when nurses gained credit as legal nurse consultants, since attorneys have sought after nurses to respond to queries for a long period regarding medical-legal concerns. Since the early 1970s, attorneys have recognized nurses as their consultants and have compensated them for their contribution in the legal expertise. One of the earliest and most common experiences of nurses in the legal arena entailed acting as expert witnesses in cases involving nursing malpractice. The courts started realizing that nurses, rather than doctors, should be used in assessing and defining the principles of nursing practice. In a bid to exhibit compliance with the aforementioned statement, nurses were sought after to review cases and offer professional opinion on testimony regarding to the nursing practice. In the 1980s, relative expansion in medical malpractices accompanied the expansion of nursing malpractice litigation. During this era, nurses started showing interest of acquiring education on legal concerns affecting the healthcare domain. The role of expert nurse witnesses gained recognition as a crucial professional purpose (Bemis, 2008). Nurses were exceptionally competent to assist lawyers in medical-legal litigation practices.
It is during this same period that lawyers were probing for means to aid them in comprehending medical records, testimonies, and medical policies. The intervention of nurse consultants was valued as a cost-effective alternative to doctors, who were rarely available due to their professional practice strains. Law firms started employing nurses for their expertise in the medical domain. Lawyers realized that they had a broader input in litigation cases, ranging from nursing and medical negligence to personal damages. Subsequently, the range of practice of legal nurse consultants has significantly increased from the aforementioned domains.
Generally, a legal nurse consultant offers advice to lawyers, paralegals, and legal experts regarding medical-legal concerns. The clinical proficiency and nursing education of a legal consultant qualifies him/her to investigate intricate medical information and make knowledgeable views to lawyers in medical-legal issues. Legal Nurse Consultants aid advocates in a number of issues including toxic tort, sexual assault, and medical malpractice..
A legal nurse consultant is a licensed, registered nurse with at least five years’ of experience in any nursing field. Majority of nurse consultants have bachelor’s degrees in nursing while others have advanced degrees. Generally, nurses join the legal nurse-consulting domain by simply taking legal consulting programs or getting a legal nurse consulting accreditation. The skills required for an individual to be a successful legal nurse consultant include communication, organization and multitasking skills. Furthermore, critical thinking skills prove to be crucial in developing litigation theories. The need for one to possess solid writing and research skills also comes in handy (Chizek, 2003).
All nurses must possess a stable command of legal terminologies and have an update in the developments taking place in their respective nursing fields. Half of the overall number of legal nursing consultants gets hired in law firms, insurance firms, and other private firms while the other half work as autonomous consultants. Nurses who work in a legal firm as legal nurse consultants earn slightly less than their counterparts who work as autonomous consultants. The autonomous consultants have an annual income averaging $60,000. Currently, legal nurse consulting has emerged as one of the most sought after careers. With well over a million licensed lawyers in America and the number is still increasing, legal nurse consultants will keep being sought by advocates to give their services in medical-legal litigation (Raymond, 2002).
In the 1980s, nurses in some states within the U.S. like California, who practiced as consultants to lawyers, created indigenous professional sets. The objectives of those professional sets were to educate the legal domain on the value of the nurse consultant as a link between the legal and medical domains, and to establish a grid for participants to share expertise (Dickinson, 2011). In 1989, the leaders from the aforementioned groups managed to form the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants that was commonly referred to as AALNC.
The Legal Nurse Consultants exhibit a number of differences from nurse paralegals and other paralegals. The utmost apparent distinction is the category of cases a legal nurse consultant handles and the point that they are registered nurses. The skills that a paralegal possesses are confined within the legal domain, while the expertise of these nurses lies within the nursing and medical domain. The legal nurse consultants receive preparation in some facets of the legal domain but are fundamentally used as consultants in medical and healthcare concerns. Alternatively, nurse paralegals obtain paralegal training, which gives supplementary tasks in a case. Even though legal nurse consultants get a few legal training, most of their expertise in the field is acquired in the end through practice.
With strict reliance to the provisions of the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants, the functions of legal nurse consultants are varied. The legal nurse consultant gives assistance in many ways in different forms of litigation. Acting as a link between medical professionals, legal professionals, and clients, the legal nurse consultants perform a myriad of functions. For example, they monitor cases for legitimacy, instruct the legal team regarding the issues revealed in the case, investigate fundamental facts to aid in amassing evidence, find, evaluate, and examine records. These consultants also organize synopses, accounts, and exhibits, state the values of healthcare pertinent to litigations concerning negligence, and support the improvement of questioning in confessions and admissions, discovery, trials, among other proceedings.
In simple terms, legal nurse consultants act as consultants by doing the following: examine cases for distinction, consult medical professionals, serve as the useful link between the legal firm and the medical professionals and third parties, frame medical-legal theories of the case, detect nonconformities from nursing medical healthcare, study medical texts, and organize autonomous medical examinations. A recurring function of the nurses entails the supervision and scrutiny of the complainant’s medical accounts. The legal nurse consultant aids in scrutinizing the health records; deducing the records of doctors; and formulating the health account chronologies and charts (Legal nurse consulting, 1999).
Fundamentally, legal nurse consultants assess cases for merit and issue informed opinions on whether the healthcare provided was a malpractice. They act as agents who aid in the litigating plan. The legal profession is given support by the legal nurses. Prior to this, only doctors were employed to provide opinions on value based on the principles of healthcare, but currently, nurses determine the adherence to principles. The 1970s saw many insurance firms seeking to cut down their expenditures, employing medical teams to oversee the healthcare of the claimants, and optimistically decrease the perpetual incapacity. The medical teams consisted of psychoanalysts and rehabilitation nurses.
In addition to aiding in a consulting role, legal nurse consultants act as expert witnesses who attest in trials, depositions and hearings, and formulating expert witness informative report to be used in the trial. In the year 1980, two pieces of litigation; namely Avret v. McCormick and Maloney v. Wake Hospital Systems proved to be crucial in demonstrating the significance of adopting professional nurses as professional witnesses in cases relating nursing malpractice. In both the aforementioned cases, the judges refused to take nurses as professional witnesses, but opted to concentrate on doctors. Subsequent to these cases, law firms started employing nurses as internal or autonomous consultants. Later in the year 1989, the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants was developed as a distinctive field, which was confirmable by passing an exam (Williams, 2010).
Legal nurse consultants manage to aid the legal specialty by concentrating on the medical needs that sprout from the litigation. They manage to assist both the paralegal and the lawyer in establishing the fundamental facts of the case, how practices lead complainants to the law firms, as well as whether the litigation portrays any merit. While the cases advances, the nurses assist in obtaining professional views on how the medical issue has affected the complainant and what the complainant expects in future litigations, and in some litigations, the terms of value life.
All legal nurse consultants possess a stable command of legal terminologies and have an update in the developments taking place in their respective nursing fields. Half of the overall number of legal nursing consultants gets hired in law firms, insurance firms, and other private firms while the other half work as autonomous consultants. They manage to assist both the paralegal and the lawyer in establishing the fundamental facts of the case, how practices lead the complainant to the law firm, as well as whether the litigation portrays any merit. With well over a million licensed lawyers in America and the number is still increasing, legal nurse consultants will keep being sought by advocates to give their services in medical-legal litigation. They act as agents who aid in the litigating plan.
Legal nurse consultants perform the consultancy role and provide expert witness accounts in trials, hearings and depositions. They also formulate expert witness informative report to be administered during trials. For example in the 1980,s legal nurse consultants played a crucial role in two litigations namely, Avret v. McCormick and Maloney v. Wake Hospital Systems where they provided testimony about nursing malpractice.
Legal nurse consultant are licensed, registered nurses possessing at least five years’ of experience in any nursing field. They have strong educational background including holding bachelors or advanced degrees in nursing. They join the legal nurse-consulting domain after pursuing legal consulting programs and achieving legal nurse consulting accreditation. One needs to possess adequate organization, multitasking and communication skills to become a legal nurse consultant. In addition, critical thinking skills, as well as solid research and writing skills are fundamental in developing litigation theories. The legal profession is given support by the legal nurses. Prior to this, only doctors were employed to provide opinions on value based on the principles of healthcare, but currently nurses determine the adherence to principles.
Bemis, P. (2008). Nurse biz. Nurses in the legal field. Rn, 71(6), 20-21.
Chizek, M. (2003). Can you use a legal nurse consultant? These specially trained and experienced nurses can be frontline protectors against liability suits. Nursing Homes: Long Term Care Management, 52(2), 48.
Dickinson, J. (2011). The origins and evolution of legal nurse consulting. Journal Of Legal Nurse Consulting, 22(2), 3-7.
Legal nurse consulting: a lucrative combination of nursing and law. (1999). Pennsylvania Nurse, 54(4), 11-12.
Raymond, L. (2002). Legally speaking. Is a legal career for you? Rn, 65(3), 63.
Williams, R. (2010, March). Making a difference as a nurse consultant: Aileen Fraser talks to Ruth Williams about how she uses the different components of the nurse consultant role to improve patient care, and the safeguarding adult initiatives she plans to implement. Nursing Older People, 22(2), 18+.Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/
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