If you are interested in both the field of law and the field of medicine, you may think there are not any careers that combine the two. You would be wrong. Nurse paralegals are both registered nurses (RNs) and paralegals. This unique combination of skills allows them to offer both medical and legal expertise to a legal team. This unique skill set makes them a valuable asset in litigation and other related areas.
Sometimes, legal issues can arise that involve a medical component. As a nurse paralegal, you would serve as an integral component of the legal team, performing tasks like interviewing clients with medical issues and providing expert testimony of their health.
Nurse paralegals typically work for law firms that specialize in:
- Medical malpractice
- Personal injury
- Workers’ compensation
- Social security
- Wrongful death
Outside of the law firm setting, nurse paralegals can find employment and valuable use of their skills in insurance companies, doctor’s offices, and hospitals. Medical institutions, for example, will retain nurse paralegals who ensure the facility is operating properly within the law. In the hospital setting, nurse paralegals can also serve as part of a hospital risk management group, which oversees malpractice for doctors and hospitals. Insurance companies also utilize nurse paralegals in malpractice and medical claims.
What Does a Nurse Paralegal Do?
The specific tasks assigned to nurse paralegals will vary depending on the organization they work for. However, the standard job duties of these professionals include:
- Researching and studying legal issues
- Cross-checking facts to verify the accuracy and authenticity of the information presented
- Reviewing deposition and trial transcripts
- Collecting and studying medical records
- Interviewing clients and witnesses regarding their health
- Composing, organizing, and filing legal documents
- Providing assistance in trial preparation
How to Become a Nurse Paralegal
If you are interested in becoming a nurse paralegal, you must complete the following steps:
- Step 1 – Complete a registered nurse (RN) program, either at the associate or bachelor’s level
- Step 2 – Earn relevant nursing experience, typically at least 2-3 years
- Step 3 – Complete a nurse paralegal program approved by the American Bar Association (ABA)
- Step 4 – Complete an internship in paralegal studies
- Step 5 – Earn professional paralegal certification
There are a variety of paralegal professional associations, including the American Association for Paralegal Education (AAfPE) and the National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), that recommend that paralegal candidates complete a paralegal program of at least 60 semester credits. This is equivalent to an associate’s degree. The ABA approves many nurse paralegal programs, most of which require the candidate to possess an RN license and at least 2,000 hours of nursing experience. A perk within this field is that many programs are offered online to better accommodate the busy schedules of working nurses. At the end of the education portion of the program, many nurse paralegal programs require an internship. During this time, the student receives valuable, real world experience.
To be competitive in the job market, consider holding one or more professional certifications. Please note that certification might not be a legal requirement to work as a paralegal depending on local laws, but it will help set you apart from your competition and might help you earn more as a paralegal.
The following organizations offer nationally recognized paralegal certifications:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) – The CORE Registered Paralegal (CRP) credential (CRP) and the PACE Registered Paralegal credential (RP)
- National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) – The Certified Paralegal (CP) credential
- NALS – The Association for Legal Professionals – The Professional Paralegal (PP) credential
- American Alliance of Paralegals (AAPI) – The American Alliance Certified Paralegal (AACP) credential
How to Earn Specialty Legal Nurse Consultant Certification
In addition to completing a paralegal education program, internship, and certification, it is highly recommended that those who are interested in becoming a nurse paralegal take The Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) certification exam through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC). This is the specialty certification that best aligns with the work legal nurse consultants perform.
There are certain qualifications you need to meet before you can take the LNCC certification exam:
- Hold an active and unencumbered RN license
- Have at least five years of experience as an RN
- Have at least 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience in the past five years
Though it is not a requirement to hold the LNCC designation to become a nurse paralegal, it is quite common for them to earn it.
*The information provided in this article should not be considered legal advice that can only come from a qualified attorney. Paralegals may not provide legal advice except where permitted by law.