A nurse paralegal is a professional who has experience in both the medical and judicial fields. The positions explain themselves, but it is interesting where nurse paralegals do their work. A nurse paralegal has a great many career choices, and you should consider enhancing your career by adding to your breadth of experience.
Nurse paralegals are nurses who received paralegal training through a correspondence course or paralegals who have received their nursing license. Many people go to school with the aim of studying the law or medicine, but these people discover that they can enhance their earning potential by training in both fields.
There are others who realize that they need extra training if they want to compete for jobs that interest them. It is not too late for you to receive more training, and it is wise for you to expand your horizons if you are still in college.
How Do You Become Certified?
You could easily become certified as a nurse and paralegal separately, but this is not going to help when you are trying to get a position as a nurse paralegal. There is an association that handles people with such specialized training. You will need to be certified through the American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board.
If you want to sit for the exam to be license by the ALNCCB, you must have a nursing license along with 2000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience. The certification is not a requirement for a job as a nurse paralegal, but this certification makes you much more attractive to potential employers. If you plan to take your career as a nurse paralegal seriously, it is best to plan to take the exam as soon as you are eligible.
You may consider joining the American Federation of Paralegal Associations or the National Association for Legal Assistants. These associations offer their own certification programs, career resources and continuing education. You may find more lucrative jobs if you are a member of multiple associations, and you are sure to be better prepared to do your work if you are receiving assistance from multiple associations.
Where Do They Work?
Nurse paralegals work for insurance companies, doctor’s office, hospitals, lawyers and legal consultants. You could work for anyone who requires someone with legal and medical training to work in their office. It is extremely rare to find someone with an M.D. who also has a law degree, and this opening in the field is what makes your job as a nurse paralegal so important.
If you are working in a lawyer’s office, you will consult on every case that has a medical component. You will be asked to interview clients who have medical problems, possibly examine those clients and give expert testimony to the state of their health. You are often the person who speaks for your employer when you are investigating cases that are going to court.
Hospitals and doctors require the services of a nurse paralegal to make sure they are operating within the bounds of the law. You are not a lawyer, but you understand the law well enough to point people in the right direction. Your position may have been created solely to prevent against legal problems in the future. Your combination of medical and legal training is often enough for you to make judgment calls about the treatment of patients and the course the hospital should take in aiding a patient.
Doctor’s offices often like having a nurse paralegal around to make sure they are operating properly. You would likely work as a nurse in the office, but you would be called upon to offer your expert advise in the legal field on occasion.
Insurance companies require the services of nurse paralegals in the midst of malpractice and medical claims. A nurse paralegal has training in both medicine and law, and the nurse paralegal can speak to things that even a lawyer or doctor cannot. These could be full-time staff positions with the headquarters of a large insurance carrier, or you could be retained by an independent agent who services malpractice insurance for doctors and hospitals.
Nurse paralegals can make up to $60,000 in the current economic climate, but nurse paralegals are paid based on their legal experience. You will make less money if you have less training as a paralegal or less experience. There are instances where you may be paid based on your medical training and only used for legal aid in certain situations.
You should ask potential employers how they plan to grade the pay for your position, and you should make sure you are getting as much experience as you can with legal consultation. The prevailing statistics indicate that someone with more legal experience will make more money over the course of their career.
The salary you earn as a full-time employee at a hospital or doctor’s office can be supplemented by many small things you can do outside of the office. Many nurse paralegals are consulted on legal cases due to their expertise in law or a particular medical field. You could make between $75 and $100 an hour as an independent consultant, and you could make up to $150 an hour as an expert witness. These duties fall outside of your regular job, but they are a good way to make more money.
The nurse paralegal who has children, works from home or wishes to retire partially can make extra money as a full-time consultant or expert witness. Lawyers for both sides of the court system are always looking for medical professionals who can testify in medical matters. Doctors are often too busy to act in this capacity, but you could do so easily if you were working from home or part-time.
When you are planning to go into the medical field, you may want to add paralegal training to your education arsenal. The legal training you receive can prepare for legal consultation in a hospital or office setting. You can work for medical agencies, lawyers or doctors, and you can make a good living if you have a large amount of legal experience. Plan ahead to become certified by the ALNCCB, get as much education as you can and maximize your earnings by flexing your medical and judicial muscles at the same time. Nursing jobs and paralegal jobs come together in this unique profession where you can be educated, empowered and important.