I Have a Lucrative, Thrilling Career as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant*
by Karen Olsson, RN, BSN, CNOR, CLNC
After 18 years as an RN, becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant sounded intriguing, and what finally motivated me to take the step was going through my own malpractice suit. My four-year-old son received a bad chemical burn from his pediatricians. He ended up having multiple surgeries and lost a testicle.
I’m earning more than triple my RN hourly rate. I find legal nurse consulting challenging and exciting. I adore that I can spend more time with my three kids.
He’s doing well now, but it was a traumatic ordeal. We were scheduled for trial in September 2014 and after sitting through depositions, I wanted to better understand the legal process. That’s when I committed to become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.
My husband, who also owns his own business, was completely supportive. I’d recently left a full-time position in the operating room to look for something more flexible, so the timing was perfect. I completed the CLNC Online Certification Program first. For me, it was therapeutic. If I had to go to trial and serve as a witness, I was relieved that Vickie’s program made me feel more confident. Litigation stopped being so scary as the CLNC training helped me understand the legal process. Just last week, we settled without going to court.
I Gained a Unique Perspective of the Legal System
At the CLNC Certification Seminar, I had a chance to speak with Vickie about my son. Always encouraging, Vickie said, “You’re going to do well with this because you’ve already lived through it.”
Her words turned out to be true. A lot of attorneys didn’t want to take my son’s case even though non-attorneys I know said, “That’s a no-brainer. It’s obviously medical malpractice.” Attorneys are hesitant because litigation is an expensive process. When my son was burned by the chemical, we didn’t realize at first that it had damaged his testicle.
Attorneys have compassion, but they have to put it aside and think about the case in a business sense. So from a litigation standpoint, that damage made my son’s case more lucrative. My personal perspective has helped me understand that even a slam-dunk case takes time to develop and becomes more costly as it goes along.
With 2,000 pages of medical records on his desk, and not being a nurse, an attorney might not see the whole scope of what a patient has gone through. Perhaps it seems like a small situation, and he’s not sure if he should take the case. That’s when a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant can really dig in and find all the complications and deviations from the standards of care. Knowing I’m helping someone be properly represented is exciting.
Some Medical Malpractice Cases Are More Clear-Cut Than Others
As a registered nurse I worked in high-risk obstetrics, then labor and delivery, pediatrics and a birthing center. Following those experiences, I worked in the operating room for five years. Quite naturally, all the cases I’ve consulted on have been in those areas. When I’m reading in the medical records about a suture or a procedure or some kind of birth trauma, I can picture what the records are saying.
I also taught childbirth education classes, which helps me to be confident and professionally assertive in speaking with attorneys. Everyone feels intimidated sometimes, but I pushed myself to succeed as a nurse, and that experience helps me as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.
My first case was a 13-year-old male with a rare kind of cancer in his arm. The doctor misdiagnosed it, brought the boy to surgery and cut into the tumor. This made the cancer metastasize throughout his body. It was simple. If they had done the appropriate research, instead of operating without the proper knowledge, the boy might have lost part of his arm, but he’d still be a healthy, active boy.
He died in July. The family is pursuing the case. A lot of people focus on the financial side, but because of going through what I did with my son, it’s also about knowing what happened and making things right.
Not every case is so clear in assessing cause. A case I just finished involved a gestational diabetic. Her baby was stillborn, and she wants to sue. She didn’t check her blood sugar as she should, didn’t eat according to the diet she was given and didn’t take her medicine appropriately.
The doctors probably should have had her deliver sooner than she did, and they weren’t as attentive to her care as they should have been. This is a big medical center hospital, so it’s surprising they weren’t following up more closely, but her noncompliance was definitely a contributing factor to this heartbreaking outcome.
My next case clearly has merit. A woman was hospitalized for a vaginal hysterectomy. This is a fairly typical surgery, except they cut into her bowel and then sent her home. She ended up having five more surgeries and a lot of complications.
The CLNC Mentors Are Hugely Helpful
Beyond the gratifying service side of being a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, there’s the business side. At the CLNC Certification Seminar, I felt so excited, “Wow, this is just going to happen.” Then I came home and asked myself, “Will this really happen, or is it just a dream? How do I get the cases to work on?”
That’s the way it was for me, anyway. When you’re new and timid, it’s sometimes difficult to ask for the work. I’ve learned to be assertive. You want the work, so you have to go after it.
The CLNC Mentors at Vickie Milazzo Institute are amazing. I also met a highly successful Certified Legal Nurse Consultant who has helped me tremendously. She encouraged me over the phone and by email, and she has been such a gift, with all her knowledge and success and the love she has for what she does.
I Love the Freedom and Intellectual Stimulation That I Have as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant
My husband and I share a home office in a building separate from our house. We each have our own space and our own computer. I use a laptop when working elsewhere, but I’m most comfortable doing reports in my home office.
In the year that I’ve been a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, I’ve done lots of research, case screenings and brief reports. I’ve also located testifying experts.
I love the freedom, the ability to work from anywhere and the intellectual stimulation. I find legal nurse consulting challenging and exciting. I adore that I can spend more time with my three kids. On a recent trip to Mexico, I had a case with me, and I was sitting in this beautiful spot with my family. Looking at that incredible view, I had what Vickie calls the “Aha!” moment. Five years down the road, I told myself, this will be where I can work pretty much anytime I want.
I finished writing the report on that case. It’s a thrill. When I look back, and I’ve put a lot of hard work into a case, it’s like I just finished first in a marathon. My kids joke when they can tell I’m extremely intent on my work. They’ll say, “Mom’s eyes are like crazy!”
As a CLNC consultant, I’m earning more than triple my RN hourly rate – and that was for a position in the operating room. The challenge, going after the work, even the difficult times, there’s something thrilling about being my own boss. Still in my thirties, I’m laying groundwork for a CLNC business that will keep getting better. A lot of people start when they’re ready to retire. I’m glad I did it now.
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