Well, here I am, a R.N. and a certified paralegal. So ask away. I will tell you what I do and how I got here. I see a lot of confusing and misleading things said about nurse paralegals. I have 15 years of experience as a registered nurse. I wanted to do something different with my nursing degree, I wanted to be able to use my background and training in something else. About 5 years ago, I received an ABA paralegal certification. Nobody even knew I was a nurse at first, but when they found out, they were all jealous becuase they knew I wouldn't have trouble finding a job. You learn about negligence, causation, damages, how to do legal research and writing, etc. I had considered taking the Kaplan course I think, if I remember correctly but didn't know how to afford it. The paralegal program accepted financial aid whereas the other LNC courses didn't, so I took the paralegal course instead. It took me six months full time, you had to have a degree already, in anything. I have absolutely no regrets. What role do I function in? Completely as an RN. I have worked in law firms for plaintiff medical malpractice and product liability (bad drugs). I recieve a higher salary than a starting out paralegal because I am a nurse. Basically, my salary has been comparable to a paralegal that has been working 15-20 years. An example of what I do (in a nutshell) is, I receive the first call from the potential plaintiff, I evaluate the case to determine if it is even a case. I met with the attorney and family and got more details, I ordered (or had my legal assistants) order medical records and billing records. I reviewed the records, developed a chronology of care along with a narrative for the attorneys to insert into their correspondence as needed. I determined what kind of expert(s) was needed for each case, or if more than one was needed, be it medical or nursing. I developed lines of questioning for depositions for doctors and nurses, I attended the depositions with the attorneys and they depended on my judgment. I wrote complete settlement brochures, I prepared the case for trial, I ordered all the trial exhibits, and conducted extensive research. I have put all the medical case information in a power point presentation to make it easy for a jury to understand. I had 2 legal assistants who worked on discovery and filing with the courts. But, I could oversee the whole case from start to finish. (I am a neuro-trauma ICU nurse, so yes, I am a control freak) I want to know every aspect of the case, in fact, I can't even start looking at a case until I see the POP.
(The position went down the drain after med-mal laws changed in Texas, the attorney I was working for got into civil rights for black farmers and native americans, I stayed with him for awhile but it wasn't busy enough and he was going through his mid-life crisis, but that's another story - but the civil rights was fascinating, we also had another case on the side involving a huge aviation manufacturing company)
I am currently working in a law firm doing insurance defense. I love it too, and it suits me right now, I needed something lower key due to some changes in my life last year. Defense aspect is great too, I am still reviewing the plaintiff's medical records and giving the attorneys my opinion, whether it's good or bad for their side. They want the truth. The one difference in this role, this time, is that I do draft and answer discovery for the partner, it was a requirement - neither position was needed full time. But being involved in discovery only allows me to use my legal mind even more. I love to learn, the more the better for me. Being a paralegal only made me a more informed person. (for example, I did my own divorce, pro se', and the judge signed it the first time around - not a simple one, 3 kids, cost me about 200 bucks) I can still work as a nurse part-time or a paralegal alone if I wanted to. Now, let me be blunt on a few things. Would I want to be a paralegal? Hell no. It is a very tedious and time consuming job, it would drive me crazy and I don't have the patience, but as a nurse paralegal, the attorneys want my nursing brain and they are only happier if I can type up and file a designation of experts or medical and billing affidavits also. I couldn't be a legal secretary or a receptionist either though, I need autonomy and flexibility. I am appreciated for my sharp legal mind and my nursing ability and background.
I have seen some very negative things posted by Vickie on her websites in regards to nurse paralegals and her dogma has been passed around quite a bit. It reminds me of when I was a new nurse and heard the saying that we eat our young. The other thing I find interesting, is the forcefulness of her comments, I can't help but read between the lines and it appears as usual, nurses are having to fight for every scrap of respect they can. Not understanding something is not a reason to completely dismiss it. I think that LNC's and Nurse Paralegals function in pretty much the same roles as far as nursing negligence goes, but I don't presume to know what her course is about and how an LNC should or should not function, because I am not one. Here is my "perceived" idea as to what an LNC does, now you all can tell me if I am correct or not. I think a LNC works on a contract basis, such as she markets herself to law firms that may need the services (no details needed here), the LNC then can work on a particular case for the attorney at an agreed upon rate for an agreed upon time. When the LNC is finished with her assignment, she may or may not have another one right away, depending on where she is in her "practice." The LNC can work from home if the attorney will allow the records to leave the building, or she may come in and do her thing, I'm not sure. I don't know if the role of an LNC pertains only to nursing standard of care or not. I don't think an LNC has benefits, so this must be taken care of elsewhere, like a husband, and who can guarantee one of them these days. I don't think I would have been hired if I didn't have a paralegal certification, many firms require it or prefer it. But, like I said, I don't think (or know) how LNC's work, most likely you don't want to work in a law firm, I do. I don't want to work in a hospital. I have been hired over RN's wanting to get in the legal field several times when they have tried to get salaried positions because I am a nurse paralegal, in today's market and economy, everyone wants to stretch the almighty dollar and a duel role sure isn't hurting me. We are paid comparable to nursing salaries, depends what area of the country. My salary would also compare to a paralegal who has been working 15-20 years.
Back to LNC, I think it is great, I am proud of everyone who succeeds at it, but the competition will be there and it isn't fair to be uninformed. Nurse paralegals are hired in-house all the time, most major firms are already going to have at least 1 on staff, and likely many of them will be nurse attorneys, how are you going to compete with that?
Well, I will shut up for now until I get some feedback. One final thing though, a nurse paralegal is not just a paralegal, we are registered nurses with all the background and training as the rest of you. We just happen to have gone about our legal training obtaining a paralegal certification rather than taking Vickie's class (or similar). What can all the extra knowledge do to hurt you? Don't you think real estate law will help you when buying or selling your house? Don't you think that civil torts class will help you when your neighbors little dog gets out and runs through your yard and your dog beats the crap out of it. Don't you think contract law will help you when your health club doesn't come through with what they promised, I could go on and on. But, hey, that's me.
I support the LNC and it would be nice if the LNC would understand and support the nurse paralegal too.
Thanks for listening and I apologize if any words are jumbled, I am on this darn laptop and all of a sudden I will be typing in the middle of a different paragraph, drives me nuts!