Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Perfect LNC

Would you like to know what it takes to be a legal nurse consultant? The average LNC will be a nurse with a minimum of five, preferably more, years of clinical experience in the hospital/OR/ICU/CCU or nurse case manager arena. This nurse is intelligent, competent, independent, confident, and willing to try something new despite misgivings. S/he can communicate verbally and in writing.

This nurse has a reliable income stream, because it takes a while to get a business up and running. “Don’t quit your day job” is our mantra, unless you are a salaried employee in a law firm. The panic of economic stress can abort an LNC’s career before it has a chance to succeed.

Here are some of the features that characterize the legal nurse consultants that I know:

  • You take your work home with you – your home will probably be your office
  • You develop marketing skills and become familiar with business sites like Linked In, polish up your resume and think about business cards, marketing brochures, etc.
  • You are comfortable with basic software like the suite of Word programs and Adobe Acrobat, and pay strict attention to your email inbox
  • You develop a style of analysis and critical thinking that allows you to communicate with your attorney, insurer, or whomever is your client
  • You find a niche in which you are comfortable, and make it known that this is where you shine – neonatal, pediatrics, cardiac, wherever
  • You offer informed opinions on LinkedIn or Yahoo LNC Exchange groups so that your name becomes familiar
  • You distinguish yourself from a paralegal; you do not need to know the letter of the law – your value is in your nursing experience and medical knowledge
  • You learn to look beneath the surface of everything
  • You do not stop caring about patients, but you are now an advocate for the truth, a fact-finder, a researcher, a communicator of your findings
  • You learn to anticipate what the “other” side will use to support their position and identify the weaknesses in your case– you do not allow your attorney to be surprised in a deposition or courtroom
  • When you come up against an obstacle, your first inclination is to solve it before asking for help

 Being a legal nurse consultant is not the same thing as being a patient advocate.  It is finding the medical evidence that supports the truth.

 It is about seeing what others miss, and believing in your work product and yourself. Most importantly, it is about learning, because every case is different, research evolves, even standards of care change. No one can assure you of success, but you can be successful if you believe in yourself and are willing to invest the time in preparation. Take advantage of all the free information that is out there, the inexpensive webinars, the textbooks and the conferences. You will never stop learning, and that is the greatest gift of any career.

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My Story

Increasingly, nurses contact me for information on legal nurse consulting. This field is too rich and diverse for a simple explanation, and all I can share is my own journey. As Led Zeppelin said, “yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there’s still time to change the road you’re on”.

I did not hear the term “legal nurse consultant” until 2005. Until then I had been a nurse – ICU, ortho, pediatrics, psych…from that moment forward, Google was my new best friend.

I looked into various programs that purported to turn me into a legal nurse consultant, indeed a wildly successful one. These programs were legion. Some were taught by universities, either in the classroom or online; others were agencies that offered “specialization” in numerous fields of study, and still others were more concerned with the business and marketing of legal nurse consulting. All offered certificates, but not certification. (The only certification recognized by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants is theirs, and you cannot become certified without 2000 hours of LNC work and passing the AALNC course of study. I have the hours, but not the time for studying…perhaps next year.)

I selected a course, learned a great deal, and acquired an impressive string of initials to add to my RN. I stopped using those when I realized they meant nothing. I read Pat Iyer’s Legal Nurse Consulting Principles and Practice, Nursing Malpractice, and Business Principles for Legal Nurse Consultants. I read Betty Joos’s Marketing for the Legal Nurse Consultant, bought a comprehensive handbook of legal terminology, and reviewed changes in nursing standards of care. I did the coursework for SANE certification, bought malpractice insurance, and joined too many organizations. The most useful group I joined was the JERKS, because you can never know too many LNC’s, or have too much advice and support.

I bought a color printer, created and printed a brochure; wrote, and constantly re-wrote, a cover letter to send to attorneys along with my c.v. I designed and printed my own business cards, and developed a website (now on my fourth). I switched from Word Perfect to Word and bought chronology software. I mailed ten packets a week for many weeks before someone called me and it was for the one thing I would not do – provide expert testimony.

Eventually, an attorney called me with three controverted workers compensation cases – cardiac, and he wanted me to help him overturn them. This, I could do, and he still uses my services. I found, however, (being a healthy skeptic), that I really love defense work. First nursing home litigation, then numerous premises liability cases, product liability, slip and falls, mold exposures, wrongful deaths, medical malpractice, World Trade Center merit assessments – each case was, and will always be, unique. The learning curve never flattens out.

I developed a profile on LinkedIn, started several groups, carefully built my network, and joined my local AALNC chapter. I presented a webinar on using LinkedIn and overcame some of my loathing of public speaking. I am president of my AALNC chapter, and our Board produced a very successful regional LNC conference in July. I love this path I have chosen, and I hope the journey never ends.