I just want to write a word of warning to those of you who are interested in the field of legal nurse consulting. Just because you have nursing experience and want to broaden your horizons doesn't mean you will succeed in this area or even enjoy it. I have found this out firsthand and want to share what I have learned.
The field of health care is generally cut and dried, everything is written out, you are supposed to tell the truth, be caring, and look out for those in your care. This is how we as nurses are trained. Unfortunately, it doesn't translate well into the field of law. Nobody is looking out for you or has your best interests at hand. Sometimes the patient's best interest is not the main concern either. If a lawyer is nice to you, he may have ulterior motives, so be careful. He is ultimately looking out for himself and the case, not you.
Nurses are also trained to work as a team and nurture and support each other. When you are involved in a case against another nurse, no matter how serious or trivial her actions, you are persecuting a peer. I didn't feel right about this, no matter from which angle I considered it. If you think you can write a report, give a deposition or take the stand against a peer and not feel guilt and remorse about it, guess again. Only the toughest, hardest-hearted nurse could do this and come away guilt free.
The main thing I learned from my experience as an LNC is that I am an honest person with integrity and that this field is not for me. I took the stand, stood by my principles and would not let the attorney I was working for compromise my values. I told him time and time again I would not say what he wanted me to say - I could only address the facts. He chose to put me on the stand anyway. And it backfired on him. Now he is angry with me and I will probably be unable to recoup my testifying fees, but at least I can sleep at night knowing I was true to myself.
These comments may sound a little jaded and perhaps they are, but the whole litigation process sure opened my eyes. I'm sure there are successful LNC's out there who don't bat an eye about what they do. For those of you out there who are considering becoming an LNC, beware the promises those ads for LNC courses make. They are there to sell the course and are going to make wild promises to get you to buy it. Just remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Jul 8, '02
Skibum, thank you for sharing your costly experience and heart-felt advice with us. I always felt that all those LNC ads were too good to be true. Besides, I wouldn't want in anyway to be aiding and abetting the terrible malpractice climate that exists out there in our sick society. I really, really don't like lawyers and I blame them for a lot of our miseries--reams of documentation for one and sky-high insurance premiums for another.
Jul 8, '02
Thanks so much for sharing your experience, skibum. I had thought about trying to take the course for LNC, but, after reading various other posts, as well as yours, I totally changed my mind. Besides, I am currently on disability, and cannot lay out the big bucks to take the course. Thanks, again, and good luck.
Jul 8, '02
Skibum, I have thought the same thoughts that you expressed when considering the field. Thanks for validating my concerns.
No way could I ever sit in judgment of another nurse, knowing firsthand she probably was doing her best in lousy conditions with unsafe staffing.
I once tried to get on the nurse peer review committee in my hospital environment because I wished to present a different point of view....too many peer review committees delight in being judge, jury and executioner of the nurse. I find that appalling.
Jul 8, '02
So Skibum, you did expert witness work, is that right?
I worked with a med mal defense lawyer very briefly and I really enjoyed it, but more as a researcher. However, the volume of work was such that it was little more than an interesting hobby.
The lawyer I worked with was pretty honest but not above exploiting situations. I thought he was ethical but cagey. Coincidentally, we met during a deposition on a case we were both fairly peripherally involved in and when that case went to court his prep of me (which was not with an aim to shape what I would say, but to find out what I would say) was far better than that of the hospital lawyer who also met with me. We never discussed that case until it was legally appropriate to do so.
My brief stint with him included reviewing charts/cases that were cluster f*** cases (sorry) on up to very sick people that were sick enough to die and did so. It was so hard to read, at times, what I considered sub-standard nursing care but I always said to myself, "You have no idea what other situations they were coping with that night." At times, I felt I could smell the sweat of the nurses and doctors coming off of the chart copy. I would not make a good plaintiff's researcher.
I think ethical expert witness work is probably harder than it looks, but often cases come down to who has the best and most persuasive experts. IF I had the expertise, I would only take cases I was comfortable standing behind the care given. And that doesn't mean the care has to be perfect; but it has to be basically sound.
This was an interesting and informative thread to me.
Jul 8, '02
Skibum, you hit the nail on the head. I've had to testify against a doctor and for an insurance company. Not great experiences at all! Boy, did I learn what the term "cut throat" really meant!
Jul 8, '02
Thanks everyone for the great responses! I half expected to hear from some LNC's telling me I was way off base. It's good to know I'm not.
I'll admit I went in to the whole legal arena very trusting and "green". I could have done some things better that would have made things easier on myself. Then the next case I took on would've gone much more smoothly. But deep down I knew that I had to get out. A person with a heart and conscience would never make it doing this type of work.
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