The Career Opportunities in the Nursing field are no longer just your general nursing positions. Nursing is no longer “just a shot in the arm” or the plain ‘ole school nurse, nor does the field mean you must wear a white mini skirt. There are excellent opportunities for nurses in the “forensic” areas as well as the “legal” fields.
Legal Nurse Consulting – Nursing has moved into the “legal” field in the role of “Legal Nurse Consulting”. Legal Nurse Consultants can use their knowledge and expertise in the medical field added alongside their knowledge and expertise in the legal field in order to specialize as a Legal Nurse Consultant. Legal Nurse Consultants are thought to be a new specialty; however nurses have been doing legal consulting for decades. This field has become more and more prominent in the last ten to fifteen years. Many nurses have chosen full-time private practice and the demand for their services has risen. It has been noted that lawsuits are on the rise and nurses look for alternatives to the typical bedside nursing careers. Nurses’ specialized experience, knowledge, and training are highly regarded and respected in the legal arena.
The Legal Nurse Consultants not only provide their variety of services such as reviewing records to identify standards of care, conduct research and summarize medical literature, identify and apply regulatory requirements, educate attorneys about medical issues, assist with depositions and trials, and screen initial cases to see if they have merit, but they also can testify in a court of law as well as testify as an expert witness on such cases the consultant has worked on. As an example, the consultant may work on personal injury cases, criminal cases, toxic torts, product liabilities as well as large class-action suits. The consultants work may vary according to their interests and backgrounds. Every case is different, thus never a dull moment.
If a nurse is considering in specializing in the legal field, it is highly recommended that he/she research the field prior to diving into this new field. It is also important that the new consultant have at least three months of income saved in order to enable the consultant to concentrate in starting their own business, if such is desired, and well thought out marketing of their new business. Many consultants have started working part time when they are first getting started and then switch to full-time once they have built a client base, according to the AALNC (American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants). The consultants do work on an hourly set fee which may range from $60 to $150 an hour for independent legal nurse consultants, while salaries for LNC’s who work for employers are comparable to nursing salaries in a clinical setting. Legal nurse consultants must be licensed registered nurses and it is also recommended that they have at least three years of nursing experience. In addition to their marketing strategies, doing volunteer work through the local bar association is a good way to get to know and network with attorneys. They can be trained and certified as a Legal Nurse Consultant through the AALNC or other educational programs; however certification is not mandatory. As in any other business, your own personal success lies within you. There’s no limit – you can take it wherever you want to go. It all depends on your goals you have set for yourself. Your goals, of course, depend on your personal wants, needs, and tenacity. As any business entrepreneur, you will need to strategize your marketing plan which can be challenging, but is part of your personal success. Needless to say, legal nurse consulting is not for everyone. In order for a consultant to succeed in this specialty, one must be a self-starter, strong communicator and have highly tuned critical and analytical thinking skills. If you think about it though, these attributes I have listed are really the making of any successful professional, regardless of your choice of field.
Forensic Nursing – Another excellent choice of specialized field for nurses is “Forensic Nursing”. When most people hear the term “forensic”, they immediately think of your typical ideal of the word and think of maybe the County Morgue. This is not necessarily the case. Forensic nursing is an exciting career that combines nursing with detective work and criminal law. The position requires a tremendous amount of researching as well as investigating. One of many of the positions that a forensic nurse can be working in is as a “Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)”. Such a forensic nurse would ensure that evidence is collected appropriately and can be used in a court of law. Forensic nursing is relatively a new field that combines the health care profession with the judicial system. The American Nurses Association officially recognized forensic nursing as a specialty of nursing in 1995. The International Association of Forensic Nursing (IAFN) held its first international certification exam in April of 2002. While certification is not mandatory in order to work as a forensic nurse, it is believed that it does give added credibility. Credibility is in fact important because one of the key parts of the forensic nurse’s role, in addition to their performance of comprehensive exams in the hospital, is to give testimony in court.
The legal court system has begun to recognize the expertise of forensic nurse examiners and are beginning to be qualified as experts. When testifying in court, forensic nurses can be qualified as either an expert witness, which would allow them to give his or her opinion, or a fact witness, which would allow them to state the facts only. This ruling is the judge’s decision. The forensic nurses are presented by the prosecutor in the courtroom, when they are to testify. When testifying at trials, they are there to present information in an objective manner and not speak for or against the victim or the defendant. The forensic nurse is there to present the facts of the examination they performed.
Forensic nursing is such a new and rapidly growing specialty. It offers tremendous opportunities for both recent graduates and experienced registered nurses looking for a career change. It is believed, that there is also a strong need for better minority representation in this field. Statistics show that approximately 50% of the victims treated are African American and approximately 20% are Latina. It is believed that such minority victims may be more apt to report the sexual crimes they have experienced if they were aware that the forensic nurses that will examine them are of their own race; thus, they may feel more comfortable in seeking medical assistance.
Forensic nurses can help more than just rape victims. Although much of the focus of forensic nursing is on the sexual assault, forensic nurses are not limited to working on just these types of cases. Many nurses work with victims of interpersonal abuse, including domestic violence, child and elder abuse/neglect and physiological/psychological abuses. Forensic nurses can also examine victims of near-fatal or fatal traumas, such as shootings or stabbings, or possibly even as death investigators.
Objectivity is a key part of being a nurse in this specialty. You must know when to draw the line between being an empathetic nurse and being there to do your job – to collect your evidence. In cases of stabbings or shootings, forensic nurses collect such evidence as bullets and any debris that is on the body, such as leaves that may have clung to the body from the crime scene. The nurse is also in charge of removing the bloody clothes the victim was wearing and putting them in a special wrapping in order to conserve the item. The nurses may also photograph and measure wounds. If the victim has died, the forensic nurse examiner will often collaborate with the medical examiner assigned to the case, answer any questions the medical examiner may have with regards to what the nurse may have seen during the exam. A nurse wanting to move into the forensic nursing field, would have to their advantage to have emergency room nursing experience.
Forensic nursing is growing rapidly and expanding. Not only is it an exciting and rewarding career, their demand is rapidly rising. Forensic nurses are even being incorporated into the emergency room setting now. Previously, hospitals felt that any nurse could collect evidence; however, a forensic nurse will have the knowledge and the expertise of what evidence should be collected and how to preserve the evidence so that it is not accidentally destroyed; thus, a more positive outcome in the courtroom in catching the criminal.
As a registered nurse, as in any other career of your choice, it is good to know what your career options may be. As a registered nurse is good to have a list of all of the different types of nursing positions that you have available to select from, depending on what may work best for you. I feel it is very important that you are aware, that in addition to the many opportunities you have available to you, as a nurse, you now also have available the positions of Forensic Nursing or Legal Nurse Consulting and what each of the two career’s job descriptions entail.