How To Become A Nurse Paralegal
Nurse paralegals are qualified registered nurses that work in the law field, assisting lawyers, companies or corporations in the medical-related cases.
Nurse Paralegal Job Description
This is a very unique and appreciated profession. The combination of law and medicine knowledge provides many interesting job opportunities. Nurse paralegal jobs can be found in hospitals, law firms, insurance companies or the government sector.
The basic duty of nurse paralegals is providing expertise and advice in medical processes, because they certainly understand the medical issues better than ordinary paralegals. They understand the medical terminology, so they are able to review medical documents, study diseases and treatment methods, as well as explain the medical procedures to the clients and the legal professionals. Also, nurse paralegals often conduct researches and provide medical evidence; they interview clients, witnesses, medical professionals and experts, so they are absolutely valuable in cases of medical malpractice or injury.
Education process for nurse paralegals
In order to become a nurse paralegal, one has to be a registered nurse with several years of working experience. The educational requirements for a registered nurse are: Associate’s degree in nursing, Bachelor's degree of science in nursing or a nursing diploma. Afterwards, one should enroll in a certificate program that will usually take up to a year to complete.
However, at least five years of working experience as a nurse are obligatory before one takes the next step in becoming nurse paralegal – official certification. The certified nurse paralegals are referred to as Certified Legal Nurse Consultants (CLNC).
The factors that The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB) takes into consideration when determining if one is eligible for the certifications are work experience, successful passing of the certification exam, application submission and paid fees. A submitted proof of 2000 hours legal nurse consulting is needed, too.
The ALNCCB exam itself consists of 200 multiple choice questions in the form of case studies and lasts about 4 hours. It focuses on the legal nurse consulting practice. This exam is organized twice a year, in the spring and in the fall. The exam fee for ALNCC members is $325, whereas for non-members it is $395. The nurse paralegals must renew their certification each five years. That is achieved with reexamination or by continuing education (submitting 60 contact hours). A current Registered Nurse license is necessary, as well as a proof of 2000 hours of legal nurse consulting over the past 5 years. The ALNCCB sends a notification about the certification renewal approximately a year before the certification expires.
Nurse Paralegal Salary Opportunities
The unique nature of their work is the reason why nurse paralegals are usually better paid than ordinary paralegals. Their expertise of medicine and the knowledge of legal issues are of extreme value to law firms. The salary of nurse paralegals varies depending on their education, their experience, the organization they work for, as well as the country they work in.
The usual starting salary for paralegals and legal assistants overall (including nurse paralegals) is about $49,500 whereas the average salary after a decade of working experience is almost $70,000 (BLS, 2016 Wage Data). The nurse paralegals who work for law firms are paid the best, with the nurse paralegals employed by hospitals being next on the list, followed by those employed by private practices and the government. The self-employed nurse paralegals have the lowest income.
A nurse paralegal is a much appreciated profession. The experienced and skillful individuals will have many opportunities for career development, one of them being promoted to supervisory jobs. Nurse paralegals can also decide to become Legal Nurse Consultants (LNC), which brings a better status and a better income. The demand for nurse paralegals is growing, because the number of medical negligence and malpractice lawsuits is increasing, but also, hospitals hire nurse paralegals to educate the staff on how to avoid these kinds of lawsuits.
So, if you are an experienced registered nurse with interest in the legal field, this may be the perfect profession for you. Your medical expertise upgraded with substantial knowledge of the legal issues will make you a valuable employee with many various job duties and career opportunities. Both, the income and the appreciation this job brings are very satisfying and the effort needed to succeed in this field is certainly worth it.