A nurse paralegal provides expert advice on legal matters involving medical or health issues. She often provides counsel in both the public and private sectors. Her job may be a permanent, full-time position with a specific company, or she may provide her services as an independent contractor.
Instead of using the combined testimony of a legal expert and a registered nurse, companies who use nurse paralegals typically feel their knowledge and experience is more useful. A proficient nurse paralegal can normally peruse a document or narrative related to a medically-related claim or issue and assess its merit more quickly than a general practice attorney. This is commonly attributed to her legal understanding and interpretation of medical terminology and medical industry jargon.
Companies and organizations that typically use the services of a nurse paralegal cover a wide range of industries. Medical journals frequently use her knowledge to help them edit and write articles that are clear, concise and free of any conflicting language or ideas. Insurance companies often call upon her to give a professional opinion on documents related to malpractice claims. Health maintenance organizations (HMOs) also may hire her to interpret contracts related to patient and physician disputes.
Legal and court cases involving claims of medical malpractice, personal injury lawsuits and workers’ compensation claims also frequently ask for testimony from a nurse paralegal. She may be called on to help either the prosecution or defense prove their cases. Her input usually falls into the category of expert witness testimony.
A nurse paralegal may also assist companies in preparing for negotiations and discussions. These may be public presentations in a court of law or private consultations confined to a company’s confidential boardrooms. Her tasks generally include research of medical records and charts, the study of pertinent legal issues and precedents and interviewing involved parties.
Objectivity is generally considered an asset for a nurse paralegal. She is frequently required to study both sides of an issue to fully assess the legal and medical implications of the situation in question. In official court cases, she is usually bound by law to present facts unadulterated by her personal views or experience.
Qualifications for this position generally include a registered nurse degree. In addition, a two-year associate’s degree, four-year bachelor’s degree or nurse paralegal certificate is normally required to qualify for the job. Professional certifications in the field of paralegal nursing are highly desirable. Several years of work experience as a registered nurse is a normal prerequisite to be hired as a nurse paralegal.