A nurse paralegal is a specialized occupation within the nursing field and one of the fastest-growing occupations in nursing. For many, a career in nursing consists of being an RN, working at a hospital or private practice, and simply helping people in need. There are, however, several specialized occupations within the nursing field itself. One of the fastest-growing occupations in this field is the Nurse Paralegal.
What Exactly is a Nurse Paralegal?
A nurse paralegal combines their acquired medical knowledge with that of their acquired legal knowledge. A nurse paralegal is a person who has typically worked many years at a nursing job as well as having completed an accredited paralegal certification course and, as a result of their experience, can understand and explain certain areas in both the medical and legal fields.
This is a much-needed and sought-after skill as the technical jargon of both fields can sometimes be challenging to understand for those not familiar with the aspects of each area. This specialized occupation also comes in very handy when working with those who have no experience whatsoever with the legal or medical professions and what they may entail. An example may be private citizens involved in a workman’s compensation claim.
What Does a Nurse Paralegal Do?
A nurse paralegal has many responsibilities. For instance, nurse paralegals can be called as expert witnesses in legal cases about the medical field. These may include cases such as workman’s compensation claims, malpractice suits, or those involving injuries to one or more persons through accidents or negligence.
The nurse paralegal is beneficial in these situations because they can adequately answer medical questions. In addition, they can respond so that the judge and legal teams involved can better understand the information as it can be explained to them by way of the legal terms they have become accustomed to.
Another example of a nurse paralegal’s responsibilities would include being present during legal and medical negotiations to conduct research and explain data so that all parties can comprehend. This helps ensure that everyone involved in the talks fully understands all the terms.
Yet another example would include a consultant-type role in developing medical journals. The nurse paralegal’s position here would be to advise during the creation and editing of the journal’s articles to ensure the accuracy of the presented information.
To best summarize the duties of a nurse paralegal, it can be said that they are responsible for the thorough and accurate research of medical data and for translating that data into legal and easily understood terms to those who require the information.
How Do You Become a Nurse Paralegal?
The ideal candidate for a nurse paralegal is someone who possesses a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, has about five years or more of hands-on nursing experience, and has completed a paralegal certification program, preferably one approved by the American Bar Association or ABA.
Possessing these credentials can almost guarantee a successful career path for those looking to transition from the nursing field to becoming a nurse paralegal. However, these are not the mandatory requirements for becoming a nurse paralegal.
What Education Do You Need to Become a Nurse Paralegal?
The minimum education requirements would include an Associate’s degree in nursing, at least two years of experience in nursing, and successful completion of a paralegal certification program. In both cases, those pursuing a career as a nurse paralegal are going to want to get certified with the NALA (National Association of Legal Assistants), as well.
It should also be noted here that those possessing the minimum requirements may have a more challenging time finding a position within the field, especially when competing for these jobs with those with a Bachelor’s degree and more hands-on experience nursing field.
Where Do Nurse Paralegal’s Work?
Employers of nurse paralegals can be either law firms who require a nurse paralegal as part of their legal team, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), insurance companies, hospitals, or private practices.
All of these potential employers will almost always go with the candidate possessing more experience as there can often be a lot at stake when dealing in matters involving both the legal and medical fields.
What is the Job Outlook for a Nurse Paralegal?
The nursing field alone has shown continued growth over the years and is projected to grow by nineteen percent over the next eight years. The paralegal field has also shown steady growth over the years, and its projected growth is around seventeen percent within the next eight years. The projected growth percentage of these two fields shows that they are among the highest and fastest-growing occupations in the country.
Combining these two fields into the one specialized nurse paralegal occupation means that it too will continue to grow at a higher and faster rate (around twenty-six percent over the next eight years) than other occupations in the country. As this field grows, employment position projections could be in the hundreds of thousands.
What is a Nurse Paralegal Salary?
The average salary for registered nurses and paralegals is around $65,000 and $46,000. The average salary for a nurse paralegal will vary on the type of industry (i.e. law firm, hospital, HMO, etc.) but would usually average from $35,000 to $51,000. These figures can be dependent on several factors, including the length of time in the nursing profession and the length of time spent in the paralegal field.
Another significant factor in the average salary amount would include the type mentioned above of industry. Some companies may pay more than the national average due to their specific function within the legal or medical fields.
It is easy to see that becoming a nurse paralegal has several benefits. From helping others to competitive pay to continued job growth, the nurse paralegal field shows no signs of slowing down. Instead, it continues to prove itself as a much needed, highly sought after, and rewarding occupation. Those planning to pursue a career as a nurse paralegal will find that they have no shortage of options as this field is not specific to certain areas but is much needed throughout the country.