Independent or in-house legal nurse consulting: Which is right for you?

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Choosing whether to practice independently or work in-house for an attorney, insurance company or private firm will be one of the biggest decisions you make as a legal nurse consultant. While I entertained both options and interviewed for an in-house position as an LNC, it didn't take me long to decide that I wanted to work independently. But let's consider both options — you might be surprised by how one may work better for you.

Working in-house for a legal firm has certain advantages: job security with consistent hours; a steady income and benefits; being an on-site team player for the two or three attorneys with whom you work; and the convenience of choosing to work within your immediate locale. At the end of the day you can go home and leave your job behind until the next day. Making contacts within the firm can also lead to networking opportunities that can open doors to independent work in the future, after you've gained some experience. Despite these advantages, working in-house also means that you are not your own boss and are at the mercy of your employer.

I personally get a greater sense of satisfaction working autonomously and in collaboration with the legal team from the comfort of my own home or from my favorite place to work — the beach. As almost every health care setting is switching from paper to electronic medical records, it's possible to work from almost anywhere in the world if you have Wifi. That's what I love most about my work. It's nice to enjoy working by the fireplace at home, especially on these cold winter days in the Northeast. You will also need access to library resources to back-up the validity of your case reports. I find that the research, guidance and direction that librarians from local colleges or universities offer, particularly those with a medical school on-site, is invaluable and often underutilized.

The options are here for you to weigh. Regardless of what choice best suits you, know that you are making an extremely positive impact in the legal system by representing the nursing profession. The standards of care in our profession must be upheld to improve the quality of care that all patients receive. As an LNC, you help keep frivolous lawsuits out of the system (unless the attorney decides against your case review and goes ahead with the case for other reasons), and you advocate for patients who have been afflicted by a substandard care.

Next week, I will be discussing different types of legal cases including medical malpractice, personal injury, worker's compensation, and products liability. If you have specific questions pertaining to these areas, email me here.

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