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How Did You Become a Nurse Attorney?

Career Nurse Attorney Article Magazine   posted

Lorie Brown RN, MN, JD specializes in Medical Legal Consultant.

Hi Lorie How did you become a Nurse Attorney? Were you a nurse first? Where did you go to law school and how long does it take? What kind of jobs can you do with such degrees?

How Did You Become a Nurse Attorney?
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There was no divine plan or calling for me to become a nurse attorney. But there was a path that brought me here and I am so grateful.

The Beginning...

When I was 10 years old and at summer camp, I fell off a horse and hit my head. When I came to, I saw a woman in white standing over me. She looked like an angel and told me that she was the camp nurse. She picked me up and rushed me to the local hospital to get checked.

On the way, and feeling better, I started asking questions like how did she become a nurse, why she chose that profession, what she liked about it, how did she come to choose taking care of children?

This article is featured in the Fall 2018 issue of our allnurses Magazine...

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That day, I made the decision that I too would become a nurse.

Becoming a Nurse...

Years later, after getting my white cap and pin, I thought I was about to begin my dream profession.

I was new and green when I started working at a California hospital. Then one day, when a patient on my unit coded, I remembered thinking, "Thank God, it's not my patient!" I then watched my patients as well as those of the other nurses who were attending to the code.

One nurse stepped out from the patient's busy room and asked me to get the Gomco Suction Apparatus from Central Supply. In those days suction did not come out of the wall. I remember standing by the linen cart when I called Central Supply only to be surprised by their reply, "We don't deliver!" I pleaded with the woman on the other end of the line to bring the life-saving equipment to us but she flat out refused.

Shocked and dismayed, I realized that there was no one else to get the equipment, so I had to leave the patients to go to Central Supply to get the equipment myself.

Turning Point...

The next day, I was called into the unit manager's office. I remember wondering why she wanted to talk to me as everything seemed fine. She sat me down saying, "Lorie, I need to write you up because of the way you talked to the person at Central Supply." To say I was stunned would have been an understatement. I could not believe that I was being written up for this conversation. I thought, "I'm a brand-new nurse! I've never been in trouble. What's going to happen to my career now?"

The manager didn't even give me any resources to help me. After being written up, I made another decision. I planned to go into management and treat nurses the way I thought they should be treated as valued and respected members of the health care team. This would entail getting my Master's Degree in Nursing and Administration and become a unit manager.

Within a few years, I started school and earned my MN and did become a unit manager. I loved it! I had a great staff in which I was very participatory. I allowed them to make their own schedules and to voice their concerns. They felt they were heard, supported and valued.

Then came a period in my life where I was going through a divorce. I had a great attorney and during the proceedings, it dawned on me ... I can do this! That year, we separated in April, I took the LSAT Preparation Course in May, took the test in June and then in July, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I was admitted to a law school and the next month I started my studies in August. All this in a 4-month span.

Law School...

Now, law school was another story. All this legal jargon at first nearly drove me crazy. But then I remembered how in nursing school all the medical jargon had driven me crazy but I did manage to overcome that. I did successfully learn the legal jargon and passed the Bars in both Indiana and Illinois.

Sometimes the universe seems to have a way of rearranging itself for your best interests. I now have the best job in the world and feel like I am a nurse for nurses. Nurses take care of everything else but themselves and when they have a problem, they seemingly have no one to turn to. Nurses' feel it's a dirty secret and so much shame overcomes them.

Taking Care of Nurses...

I take care of the nurses in their deepest, darkest hours when they have a license, employment or contract issue. I prefer to be proactive and help nurses prevent problems rather than to have those problems.

I had a multitude of clients who came to me saying they never thought they would have to be before the Board, yet here they were. I recognized they had some common problems and from there, I developed a system to help them protect themselves.

The system is called GIFTS. And I learned that when nurses do not use their GIFTS, that is when they get into trouble. (Stay tuned for another article on the GIFTS!).

When I first became an attorney, I thought I would make a lot more money than nursing. I also thought they would value my nursing expertise. I was wrong! My first job, I worked for the state of Indiana Department of Insurance and defended the medical malpractice fund. I worked home care at an IV infusion company to supplement my income. Shortly after I graduated, the TV show LA Law was released and the applications to law school went through the roof! In addition, with the economic crisis in 2008, many law firms went out of business or merged with other firms to stay competitive.

Tips for Success in Law School

Now, if you still want to go to law school, let me share with you some success principles.

If money is your main motivator, it is not worth it.

The time and cost of going to law school take years to repay. As nurses, money is usually not our main motivator. Our main motivator is helping people. People ask me what is the difference between law and nursing. I say as a nurse, a patient does not come with a sign over their head as a medical example, like appendicitis. You have to assess, plan, implement and evaluate. In law, a client does not come in with a sign over their head like tort, breach of contract etc, you still have to assess, plan, intervene and evaluate.

Become a Legal Nurse Consultant first or spend a day at a law firm to see if you even like it.

As nurses, we are relational and love our patients. Time in law is spent reading and researching and I say, knee deep in paperwork

Be unafraid.

As nurses, we are caregivers and not business people but if you like marketing yourself and do not feel uncomfortable asking for money for your services, this is a great job. At first, this was very difficult for me. My law partners would market by taking insurance claims adjusters to play golf, drink martinis and smoke cigars. I did none of this. However, I was required to bring in business to the firm. I had to learn how to market my own way. I now look at marketing as service rather than sales and how can I help someone.

Check out The American Association of Nurse Attorneys, TAANA.org.

These attorneys are nurses at heart and there is tons of value in this organization. All TAANA members remember where we came from and are more than willing to help others.

Going to law school and becoming a lawyer was one of the best decisions I ever made. I love being able to help people especially nurses.

Lorie A. Brown is a Nurse Attorney representing nurses before the licensing board and founder of EmpoweredNurses. org. Empowering Nurses at the bedside and in business. Are you an Empowered Nurse? Take the quiz at areyouanempowerednurse.com

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