What is a Nurse Attorney?

Nurse attorneys have both nursing and law degrees, so they can adequately represent and defend medical professionals in court. Most nurse attorneys choose a courtroom career, so they consult on disputes with insurance companies and help health care professionals who are involved in malpractice lawsuits. Other nurse attorneys choose a career in public health to advocate for better legal policies, support nursing associations and lobby to pass new laws.

Nursing Meets the Law

Most nurse attorneys represent health care professionals in court, serve as expert witnesses in medical-legal cases and analyze personal injury or insurance claims. They usually perform comprehensive reviews of medical data, records and charts to establish medical facts, determine clinical relevancy and identify proof of injury through the health care providers’ diagnosis or treatment. They work with hospital attorneys and paralegals to prepare medical record summaries and documentation. For example, they may create a full chronology of the client’s medical and injury history. Their jobs are structured, multifaceted, fast-paced, patient-centered and highly independent. Some work as writers for legal journals and professional nursing groups.

Risk and Insurance Management

Most nurse attorneys are assigned to risk and insurance management departs in health care chains. They act as legal nurse consultants with clinical staff on risk management issues. They may conduct professional licensure investigations and attend claims management team meetings. One of the keys of proper legal-medical risk management is the education of staff members. All health care professionals must understand the inherent dangers from malpractice lawsuits, especially when the claims are justified. Risk and management departments in hospitals exist to promote safe clinical practices, continually improve the quality of care and support clinical investigations, risk analyses and improvement processes.

Areas of Expertise

Nurse attorneys must be competent in both medical and legal areas. First, they must understand and promote adherence to hospital standards, state laws and regulatory body guidelines. They will work with hospital administrators to review policies to ensure legal defensibility. Second, they identify the risk control and management educational gaps in order to implement customized instruction activities. They will work with nurse trainers to establish classroom instruction objectives and methods for evaluating the effectiveness of instruction. Third, they act as the certified legal nurse consultant. This means that they provide investigative support of worker liability, compensation claims and outside chart reviews.

A Typical Day for a Nurse Attorney

Most of their daily work will be related to defense preparation. They will screen and staff potential cases with supervisors. Once the cases are assigned, they will define the applicable standard of care and the deviations from these standards. They will assess the alleged damages, injuries and complaints. They must identify factors that caused or contributed to the alleged problem. Nurse attorneys must often follow up with external medical facilities for requested case information regarding investigations. They may conduct targeted assessments of entire organizations to provide recommendations for the identification, implementation and monitoring of risks.

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Almost all nurse attorneys will have an accredited masters of science related to nursing, a license to practice as an RN and an attorney’s license. A nurse attorney will most likely seek certification through the American Medical Association (AMA, The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA) or the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (AANA).