It is unlikely that a student entering nursing school has it in mind to become a nurse and then become an attorney but this dual degree is becoming increasingly more common. The reason is because increasingly our health care system and our legal system intersect in matters of patient rights, malpractice suits, and corporate liability issues, just to name a few.
Nurse Attorney Job Description & Scope of Practice
The nurse attorney, as the name implies is a licensed nurse who is also licensed to practice law and as such usually works on cases that involve medical or healthcare issues. Some nurse attorneys have their own practices and choose the cases they take while others may be partners in a large practice, work directly for a corporation or be employed or on retainer to a hospital. Some of these dual degree professionals may be employed by malpractice firms. Other nurse attorneys work to educate nurses on their legal obligations as nurses, as well as how to avoid malpractice suits.
This dual degree professional may write briefs, represent their clients in court, or start their own practices. The job description of the nurse attorney will vary with their employer, or the type of cases they take as an independent lawyer. However, many nurse attorneys that utilize their broad knowledge of medicine and medical procedures with their legal knowledge. Some prefer not to represent clients in court and may prepare the legal brief, interpret medical terminology and point out where errors may have occurred in medical procedures. Other nurses represent their clients in court cases adding their expertise in medicine to their legal credentials.
How to Become a Nurse Attorney
The nurse attorney will have acquired a nursing license and then been accepted to and entered into law school. Since law schools require an undergraduate degree, most nurses are RNs with bachelor degrees. Once the nurse has graduated from law school they will then be required to pass the state bar examination.
The nurse attorney will be required to invest 2 – 4 years in nursing school, and then a minimum of 2 – 4 years in law school.
Nurse Attorney Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs
● Successful completion of nursing school is required and passing the NCLEX-RN examination to become a Registered nurse.
● Graduation from law school that requires 2 – 4 years.
● Passing the State Bar Examination
● The association representing nurse attorneys is The American Association of Nurse Attorneys (TAANA). Currently, the association does not offer certification, but they conduct numerous conferences and help nurse attorneys connect with clients. Legal nurses who wish to become certified may do so through other organizations, but not with a Nurse Attorney designation. For example, nurses may obtain certifications through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) for specialties such as psychiatric and mental health. Certification is not required, but holding a certificate lends credibility to nurse attorneys’ testimonies.
Nurse Attorney Salary and Career Outlook
The Nurse Attorney career outlook is predicted to be better than average, combining as it does two growing fields, law and healthcare. Job growth for attorneys over the next 8 years is predicted to be around 13%, while the predicated growth in jobs for nurses is around 21 – 23% according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The nurse attorney employed by a corporation or hospital can expect to earn over $81,000.