Nurse Paralegal Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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Get the truth about a nurse paralegal's salary, education/licensure requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a nurse paralegal.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Nurse Paralegal

A nurse paralegal is a nurse who also has significant legal training. Read the following pros and cons of being a nurse paralegal may help you decide if this is the right career for you.

Pros of Being a Nurse Paralegal
Potential for high salary (Annual salaries ranged from $50,000 to $97,000 as of July 2015)*
RNs can switch their careers with just one year of additional legal training***
Highly specialized legal professional who provides valuable services to a legal team***
Variety of job duties, including projecting medical costs, reviewing patient care, conducting medical bill audits****
Multiple employment setting options (law firms, insurance companies, corporate legal departments, government agencies and hospital systems)***

Cons of Being a Nurse Paralegal
Must have at least an associate's degree, nursing license and 2,000 hours of experience to enter program**, ***
Must be able to juggle several work projects at once**, ***
Employee often seek professionals with years of experience in specific legal specialties, no new nurse paralegals may not find immediate employment**
Training programs may be non-credit***

Sources: *PayScale.com, **Online job postings (May 2012), ***Thomas Edison State College, ****Kent State University.

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

A nurse paralegal is a highly-trained professional who is also part of a legal team. Nurse paralegals use their medical expertise to help lawyers and legal professionals with criminal and civil cases regarding healthcare. They help investigate legal issues such as malpractice lawsuits or health insurance claims. Using their experience in medicine with their knowledge of the law, nurse paralegals are able to assess if patients were treated correctly or if medical professionals were negligent in their care. As part of their duties, nurse paralegals explain medical procedures to legal professionals, evaluate expert witnesses and project medical costs. In addition to performing medical legal research, other nurse paralegal duties include interviewing witnesses and clients, assisting in trial preparations and reviewing medical records and reports.

Nurse paralegals are sometimes referred to as legal nurse consultants (LNC). While these two careers often overlap, there are some differences. Both are licensed nurses with nursing experience. The LNC is often independently hired on a contractual basis to perform certain legal-medical tasks for a lawyer or legal team. The nurse paralegal typically has more legal training and is hired on a full-time basis. The nurse paralegal can perform the duties of both an LNC and a paralegal.

Job Prospects and Salary

Nurse paralegals may find work in hospitals, government agencies, law firms and other legal entities. They are already licensed registered nurses, but by completing nurse paralegal programs, they qualify for positions as nurse paralegals or as legal nurse consultants. Although based on a small number of workers, Payscale.com reported that legal nurse consultants in the 10th to 90th percentile ranges earned wages that ranged from $50,000 to $97,000 as of July 2015. Salaries can vary by location and experience. Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not have employment projections specifically for nurse paralegals, they did state that paralegals could experience an employment growth of 17% between 2012 and 2022.

What Are the Requirements?

To enter a nurse paralegal program, a candidate is usually required to have at least a nursing associate's degree, a current registered nurse (RN) license and at least 2,000 hours (or two years full-time work) of RN experience. Although this may vary by school, LPNs or nurses from degree-granting schools may enroll in nurse paralegal programs with approval from a program advisor. Although nurse paralegals are not required to be licensed, they must already have licenses as nurses to apply to the program. Although the licensing requirements vary by state, nurses are typically required to pass the National Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). The NCLEX-RN is a written exam designed to test candidates on their competency as nurses. Registered nurses must renew their license according to state laws where they live. Requirements for certification may be continuing education or a specific number of work hours within a time span.

Education and Training Requirements

Applicants who have met the education and work experience requirements must complete a nurse paralegal training program. The curriculum consists of legal courses that include torts, administrative laws, legal research and litigation, business law and healthcare ethics. Students may complete on-site internships, as well. Some schools offer courses in the evenings or on weekends. You may also find courses offered online as well.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job and education requirements often vary from employer to employer. Knowing what it takes before you apply for a job or even before you pursue this career can make a difference in your choice. Below are a couple job postings from real employers that are open as of May 2012.

  • A New Jersey hospital is in need of a paralegal to work in a risk manager role. Job duties include preventing errors in healthcare delivery, identifying potential compensatory incidents and advising attorneys on events that may affect patient safety and risk mitigation. Applicants should have bachelor's degrees, at least three years' experience working in risk management and experience in an acute care setting. Clinical training and nurse accreditation is preferred. Employees receive generous compensation and benefit packages.
  • An experienced nurse paralegal is needed to work in a West Palm Beach legal firm. Candidates should have at least three years' experience with federal state and federal court litigation and experience using Microsoft Office products. Experience working in medical malpractice cases is a plus. Employees receive competitive wages and benefit packages.
  • An Arizona legal healthcare industry is looking for an experienced nurse paralegal to become part of their defense litigation team. Job duties include drafting documents based on medical reports, drafting legal documents (appeals, pleadings, briefs and contracts), summarizing depositions and medical records and collaborating with expert witnesses. In addition to being a registered nurse, applicant must possess excellent communication and organization skills. The applicant must also have at least three years' experience working as a paralegal.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Although becoming a nurse paralegal requires completion of a training program, you may want to take extra steps to make your skills stand out and help you to be competitive with the rest of the workforce. Certification can demonstrate your knowledge and commitment to your occupation. The American Legal Nurse Consultant Certification Board (ALNCCB) offers the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) credential to eligible applicants who pass a written examination. To be eligible, a candidate must have a current RN license, at least five years' experience as an RN and proof of at least 2,000 hours of work as an LNC in the last three years. The AALNC also offers online legal nurse consultant courses.

Other Careers to Consider

If you're still not sure becoming a paralegal is the right career choice, take the time to consider some other careers that are similar but may have better pay, better employment projections or require less education and training. Here are a couple choices you may want to consider.

Registered Nurse

Although having the RN credential is required for a career as a nurse paralegal, you may choose to have a career working as an RN. Educational requirements include at least an associate's degree in nursing; many choose to enroll in nursing bachelor's degree programs. As a registered nurse, you may also choose specialized areas of study, such as emergency care, pediatrics or geriatrics. Aspiring nurses must pass a written examination to obtain licensure, which is required to practice as a nurse. According to the BLS, registered nurses were predicted to see an employment growth of 26% between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, the BLS also reported that RNs earned around $69,000.

Lawyer

If you don't mind completing several years of school and find the legal profession exciting, you may wish to pursue a career as a lawyer. To become a lawyer, you need to complete at least seven years of school. In addition to earning a bachelor's degree, you'll need to complete three years of law school. Depending on the state you live, you may also have to complete a juris doctor (J.D.) program. Some law schools also require that applicants pass the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Lawyers were predicted to see an employment growth of 10% between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that lawyers earned a mean annual wage of around $130,000 as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Legal Studies
      • Master: Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Legal Support and Services
      • BS in Legal Support and Services - Paralegal
      • Undergraduate in Legal Studies
      • Bachelor: Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • AAS in Legal Support and Services
      • Associate: Criminal Justice
    Certificate
      • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Joseph's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Argosy University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor - Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Baker College Online

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Criminal Justice - Bachelor
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Legal Studies
      • B.A. - Criminal Justice
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
      • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
    Master's
      • M.S. - Criminal Justice
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Corrections and Case Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Generalist
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Homeland Security and Crisis Management
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Forensic Science
      • Bachelor or Science - Criminal Justice: Law Enforcement
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science in Criminal Justice
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Career Diploma: Legal Secretary

Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • Master: Legal Studies
  • BS in Legal Support and Services
  • AAS in Legal Support and Services
  • Postbaccalaureate Certificate - Pathway to Paralegal

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS in Criminal Justice Intelligence & Crime Analysis

What is your highest level of education completed?

Argosy University

  • Bachelor - Business Administration

What is your highest level of education completed?

Baker College Online

  • Criminal Justice - Bachelor

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MS - Organizational Leadership: Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • MS in Criminal Justice: Legal Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Legal Studies
  • B.A. - Criminal Justice
  • Associate of Arts - Paralegal
  • Associate of Arts - Criminal Justice

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor - Management - Criminal Justice
  • M.S. - Criminal Justice
  • BS - Criminal Justice

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