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What are legal nurse consultants?

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What are legal nurse consultants?

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legal nurse consultingLegal nurse consulting is the evaluation and analysis of facts and the rendering of informed opinions related to the delivery of healthcare services and outcomes. With a strong foundation based on education and experience, the LNC is qualified to assess adherence to standards and guidelines of nursing practice. LNCs can be successfully used in litigation other than medical malpractice, such as personal injury, toxic tort, product liability, criminal, will dispute, and matrimonial cases.

The LNC is a licensed registered nurse. He or she performs a critical analysis of clinical and administrative practice, healthcare facts and issues, and their outcomes. Services are provided to the legal profession, healthcare professions, consumers of healthcare and legal services, and others as appropriate. The LNC’s services are rooted in his or her expertise as a nurse. The American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC) has defined legal nurse consulting as a specialty practice of the nursing profession, a position endorsed by the American Nurses Association in 2006.

Nurses providing legal nurse consulting can be found as employees in many settings, including in the plaintiff or defense firm, the risk manager’s office, federal and state agencies, and the insurance companies. An equal number of LNCs are self-employed (called “independents”) and provide services to clients on both sides of the bar.

Legal Nurse Consultants are not paralegals

Some role confusion exists regarding the differences in preparation and functions of a paralegal versus a LNC. By definition, paralegals and legal assistants are qualified by education, training, or work experience to perform specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. Some legal education is typically a requirement for paralegals. Paralegals learn about general law, legal research, torts, legal writing, civil litigation, and technical litigation support. A simple explanation is that the paralegal has some education about law, and the LNC is a nurse who has developed expertise in assisting attorneys with medical issues.

Although many LNCs have acquired knowledge of the legal system through such experiences as consulting with attorneys and attending seminars, legal education is not a prerequisite for the independent practice of legal nurse consulting. Professional nursing education and healthcare experience make LNCs unique and valuable partners in legal processes.

LNCs are not usually nurse paralegals

Many attorneys, unfamiliar with the term legal nurse consultant or its abbreviation, LNC, may refer to the nurse as a “nurse paralegal”. Unless the nurse has taken a paralegal program, this term is incorrect. The correct use of the term refers to a nurse paralegal is a paralegal who is also a nurse. In contrast, a legal nurse consultant is a registered nurse who consults on healthcare issues within the legal arena. Confusion about roles arises also because in some settings legal nurse consultants perform some of the same work that legal assistants and paralegals do, particularly in small law offices.

While LNCs may acquire knowledge about legal documents, such as complaints, interrogatories, requests for production, and the like, most LNCs have no legal training and are not frequently used to draft legal documents. Their focus does not include wills, real estate transactions, and other areas of non-healthcare-related law which is a typical part of paralegal education. These tasks do not make the best use of the legal nurse consultant’s skills.

Legal education programs offered for nurses by legal assistant or paralegal education programs also cause confusion about roles. To the extent that legal education is provided to nurses by legal assistant or paralegal education programs, it should be considered separate from the education of paralegals and legal assistants because of the differences in their practice in the legal arena. AALNC’s position, therefore, is that LNC education should be developed and presented as specialty nursing curricula by nurse educators in partnership with legal educators.

Extracted from, “Working with Legal Nurse Consultants”, in Nursing Malpractice, Fourth Edition, 2011. Get your copy here.

Med League is a legal nurse consulting firm that assists attorneys handling cases involving medical negligence, personal injury and other litigation with medical issues at stake. Med League nurses have expertise in analyzing medical records for inconsistencies and abnormalities. Contact us for a deep medical analysis of your case.

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4 Responses to “What are legal nurse consultants?”

  1. I am often criticized for over-charting or taking too much time documenting. I have found the in this day of EMR or conversation to EMR that there is much lost in documenting incidences. New nurses coming out of colleges today have not been educated about the legal issues surrounding charting and the details that mean so much to protect them and the patient are often lost.
    Prioritizing charting is not taught in nursing education and where I now live – two year grads are the norm. I am a BSN who graduated back in 1983 and learned a great deal not relying on electronic methodology, but with hands on touching, smelling, sensing and listening through interviews/questions with my patients and their families. I am finding this is also a skill being lost in the current healthcare environment. I used to believe that there would never be a benchmark level for practicing nursing, but I am now beginning to believe that the skill and analytical skills a BSN level nurse has should be the entry level to practicing hands-on nursing care to patients. Additionally, it should be an expectation that knowing how to use your GOD given senses FIRST, before using electronic devices in the care of patients, be part of the national Nursing Exam to practice!
    I have been a manager in several environments, worked in Clinical Research, am Certified in Bariatrics and enjoy patient care. It is unfortunate that the young people today who are going into the healthcare field are doing it for monitory reasons and not for the love of caring for their fellow man. Compassion is key to the role of any nurse and even many of my own collegues are loosing their compassion and becoming syndical with the over-run of healthcare forms and red-tape to good care!
    I see Legal Nurse Consultants as people who could also educate the nursing community on the legal aspects of ensuring proper charting to protect nursing licenses because certainly the hospitals, employers are not watching out for them!
    Thank you.

    • You’ve brought up several great points. Analytical skills should never be lost and cannot be replaced by rote computer charting.

  2. I am often criticized for over-charting or taking too much time documenting. I have found the in this day of EMR or conversation to EMR that there is much lost in documenting incidences. New nurses coming out of colleges today have not been educated about the legal issues surrounding charting and the details that mean so much to protect them and the patient are often lost.
    Prioritizing charting is not taught in nursing education and where I now live – two year grads are the norm. I am a BSN who graduated back in 1983 and learned a great deal not relying on electronic methodology, but with hands on touching, smelling, sensing and listening through interviews/questions with my patients and their families. I am finding this is also a skill being lost in the current healthcare environment. I used to believe that there would never be a benchmark level for practicing nursing, but I am now beginning to believe that the skill and analytical skills a BSN level nurse has should be the entry level to practicing hands-on nursing care to patients. Additionally, it should be an expectation that knowing how to use your GOD given senses FIRST, before using electronic devices in the care of patients, be part of the national Nursing Exam to practice!
    I have been a manager in several environments, worked in Clinical Research, am Certified in Bariatrics and enjoy patient care. It is unfortunate that the young people today who are going into the healthcare field are doing it for monitory reasons and not for the love of caring for their fellow man. Compassion is key to the role of any nurse and even many of my own collegues are loosing their compassion and becoming syndical with the over-run of healthcare forms and red-tape to good care!
    I see Legal Nurse Consultants as people who could also educate the nursing community on the legal aspects of ensuring proper charting to protect nursing licenses because certainly the hospitals, employers are not watching out for them!
    Thank you.

    • You’ve brought up several great points. Analytical skills should never be lost and cannot be replaced by rote computer charting.

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