Career advice for potential legal nurse consultants
Dear Ms. Clark-Heller,
I stumbled upon your blog after many hours of surfing the web for some information about being a legal nurse consultant. I was really impressed with your experience and scholarly approach to your career. I would love to have this type of career, but I have been away from clinical nursing for 13 years since becoming a stay-at-home mom with a husband who works long hours! Because of this, I need work that's flexible.
Fortunately, I have kept my state-nursing license active. I have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and 8 years of clinical experience in obstetrics. I've worked in postpartum, high-risk antepartum, labor and delivery and a busy OB/GYN office.
Even if I take classes to become an LNC, I'm afraid that this gap in my experience will really hurt my ability to practice suitably and acquire cases in the medical-legal area. I realize that even with recent experience a lot of research is involved in this work, and that is something that I look forward to. I just haven't been able to find advice from someone actually working in the profession, as opposed to someone who is trying to sell me a course.
Any advice you can give me would be so greatly appreciated!
Thanks for your question and so excited you were able to find my blog here with The Clinical Advisor. I've asked myself similar questions many years ago before pursuing legal nurse consulting. I started off taking a course through an online college and they mailed me textbooks, tests, etc. that were scored and mailed back to me. I did quite well holding a 4.0 GPA. Then life came along, I got busy and side tracked. But I found myself considering the same line of study years later. Six years after dropping that online course due to family reasons, I reconsidered my path again but with a much stronger passion. I knew that I could do the work because of my grades, and I felt that I had finally found my niche in nursing.
Reading your current family situation, I feel that we live comparably. Pursuing this career path has given me the most flexibility I've ever experienced, and I have no problems managing my duties as an independent practicing LNC, mother and so on.
With hard work, legal nurse consulting will eventually provide you with a steady income. When I first got into the career, I expected time to pass before I would start to make a profit. Because of this, I kept a full-time job and did legal nurse consulting on the side to keep my studies and skills up.
For a long time I would work until 3 am on legal cases and then wake up at 6 am to go to my “full-time job.” Passion and love of the work is what gets you through until you can do part-time or even full-time legal nurse consulting.
I used to do research for cases on my lunch break, market myself by making phone calls to attorney offices and do as many other things as I could fit into that hour. And then when I got home and the kids were in bed, I worked some more. I did that for two years before I went into full-time legal nurse consulting. I have no regrets and feel like my work has certainly paid off.
Don't sell yourself short, Ilene. You have 13 years of nursing experience in obstetrics and gynecology, one of the highest litigated specialties. There are attorneys that handle OB/GYN cases exclusively, and this may be a suggested route for you to market yourself after completing a course.
Even though some time has passed you still know the standards of care, because you have years of experience. There are also agencies out there that can provide you with research information, as well as present day standards of care for a fee. ECRI Institute is a great resource and fairly reasonable to purchase.
As you search for a course that suits your needs, you will need to consider cost (student loans are available for career training); ability to travel, if you are considering a live certification course vs. an on-line course; length of the course; and, most importantly, the quality of the course.
I suggest you take a notebook, sit down with the options you have been considering and write the pros and cons of each to help you visualize your decision. There are also national associations available with information online to assist you in choosing a certification course. I suggest looking into two to which I belong. Each provide invaluable resources and networking opportunities. These are the National Association of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants® (NACLNC) and the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AALNC).
Both organizations have annual conferences that you can attend to earn continuing education credits, and they also provide up-to-date news about what's going on the legal nurse consulting world.
I hope these resources are useful to you in your decision-making process. Ultimately, it's up to you to decide what's in your best interest.