How to Become a Legal Nurse
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Legal nurse consultants blend medical expertise with the law to advise attorneys and other stakeholders. Learn more about how to become a legal nurse in this guide.
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If you're interested in both law and nursing and have wondered how to become a legal nurse, this guide has the answers. Legal nurses use their nursing experience and knowledge to assist with legal claims, ensure regulatory compliance, and analyze healthcare benefits. As consultants, legal nurses can enjoy scheduling flexibility and work primarily during regular business hours.
Explore the steps to becoming a legal nurse, how to get licensure and certification, and what it's like to work as a legal nurse.
What Is a Legal Nurse?
Legal nurses offer consultation services to law firms, insurance companies, and healthcare organizations. Their workdays might include interviewing clients or witnesses, researching medical records, drafting medical sections of legal documents, or offering expert testimony.
In addition to a nursing degree and registered nurse (RN) license, several years of clinical experience are required before becoming a legal nurse. While you don't need a formal legal education or law degree, certification or coursework in legal nurse consulting can be helpful.
Steps to Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant
Aspiring legal nurses earn an undergraduate nursing degree, take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN), apply for state licensure, and begin working as an RN in a clinical setting. Certification is optional but valuable.
Earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree.
A career in legal nursing requires a nursing degree. Most RNs, particularly those interested in clinical nursing, earn an ADN or a bachelor's degree in nursing.
A four-year BSN is most helpful to future legal nurses due to its comprehensive curriculum. If you already have an ADN, you can transfer into a 12-18-month RN-to-BSN degree program.
If you have a bachelor's degree in a non-nursing field, consider an accelerated BSN track, which focuses solely on nurse training.
Pass the NCLEX to Receive RN Licensure
Gain Clinical Nursing Experience
Legal nurses typically have about five years of clinical RN experience. RNs remain in demand due to a nationwide nursing shortage. Job seekers can find clinical positions at hospitals, long-term care facilities, outpatient clinics, and physicians' offices.
Consider Becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant Certified
Certification from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants can help you gain specialized knowledge and advance your legal nurse career. To become a legal nurse consultant certified (LNCC), applicants need a current RN license, five years of RN experience, and 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience during the last five years.
While not mandatory, certification can lead to higher salaries. Many employers prefer candidates with LNCC credentials.
Featured Online RN-to-BSN Programs
Legal Nurse Education
Legal nurse consultant employers tend to prefer – or even require – BSNs, but some may substitute extensive clinical experience as an RN for a bachelor's degree. An ADN offers the shortest path to an RN license, but a BSN may be worth the time and effort in the long run.
An ADN qualifies graduates to take the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for RN licensure in about 24 months. For students who want to enter the workforce right away or are interested in minimizing their educational costs, an ADN fits the bill.
But legal nurse consultant positions often require or prefer a BSN.
High school diploma or GED certificate; college prerequisites; transcripts; 2.0 GPA; ACT or SAT scores
Liberal arts core curriculum (e.g., communications, English, sciences, statistics); nursing skills like health assessments, microbiology, and immunology; hands-on clinical rotations
Time to Complete
Working on healthcare teams; providing quality and safe care; basic nursing in community health, children and families, maternity and newborns, and medical-surgical
A BSN offers advantages to aspiring legal nurses that include increased job opportunities and salaries. It also includes opportunities to hone skills in research and writing and to take coursework in specialty areas like nursing informatics, law and ethics in nursing, and risk reduction.
In addition, a BSN prepares students for graduate study, which can lead to career advancement.
High school or college transcripts; SAT or ACT scores; 2.5-3.0 GPA
Science, humanities, and mathematics; nursing topics in anatomy, leadership and management, mental health, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and research and statistics; lab simulations; clinical rotations
Time to Complete
Case management; clinical and leadership skills; critical thinking for nurses and decision-making; care of different patient populations
Legal Nurse Consultant Licensure and Certification
Becoming a legal nurse requires getting an RN license from a state nursing board. RN licensing criteria vary by state, but common requirements include earning an ADN or a BSN and a passing score on the NCLEX-RN exam.
RNs renew their licenses every 2-4 years in most states, and state nursing boards generally require completion of nursing continuing education hours for renewal.
Certification is optional but highly recommended for legal nurses. Many employers prefer to hire certified legal nurse consultants and some require it.
Certification also ensures that legal nurses have the knowledge and skills needed to do the job. The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board requires a current RN license and five years of experience working as an RN, plus 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience within the past five years.
Working as a Legal Nurse Consultant
Newly licensed RNs find jobs by tapping into the contacts they made during their clinical rotations, their program's alumni network, and their school's career advising services. Large hospitals and medical centers recruit and hire RNs, and other workplace settings like home healthcare, outpatient and specialty clinics, and long-term care facilities also need RNs.
Hospitals generally hire new RNs to perform basic nursing care within a department. Home health service and long-term care RNs help people in their homes or facilities with daily needs (bathing, dressing, mobility, and meals), administer medications, and provide basic medical services.
According to 2021 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers, RNs make a median annual salary of $77,600. Payscale data from June 2022 breaks down salaries for RNs with ADNs at an average of $73,000 per year and RNs with BSNs at $89,000. Legal nurse salaries average $80,720 per year, according to Payscale's June 2022 data. The average hourly rate earned totals $48.69, which outpaces paralegals and legal assistants.
Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Legal Nurse
How long does it take to become a legal nurse consultant?
Becoming a legal nurse consultant requires 2-4 years of nursing school and a recommended five years of work as an RN. Aspiring legal nurses should plan at least seven years to launch their careers.
What skills and qualifications do you need to become a legal nurse consultant?
Legal nurse consultants need a nursing degree (bachelor's preferred), an RN license, and skills in legal document and medical records review, medical terminology, and research and analysis. They also need to be effective communicators, both orally and in writing.
Is legal nurse consulting flexible?
As consultants, legal nurses can often set their own hours but may be needed for more regular hours during active litigation. A number of positions advertised on Indeed as of June 2022 offer opportunities to work remotely.
Do legal nurse consultants get paid well?
Legal nurse consultant salaries advertised on Indeed as of June 2022 range from $75,000-$85,000 per year at a Colorado law firm to $25 an hour at a Florida firm. Salaries for legal nurses average around $80,720 as per Payscale in June 2022 and tend to be highest in cities like New York, Atlanta, and Miami.
Page last reviewed June 17, 2022
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