Susan Haibeck Shares How She Built a Flexible Schedule and Steady Income as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant*
by Susan V. Haibeck, RN, MS, CLNC
In 2015 a perfect storm of life events came together creating an opportunity for me to commit to becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. I knew it was the direction I wanted to go, so I enrolled in the CLNC Online Certification Program. Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC Certification Program was the most lively, entertaining and informative class I’ve ever taken.
My intent was to build a flexible schedule and a steady CLNC income. That’s happening, and I’m loving it. In less than two years, I have consulted on more than 50 cases.
I put all my energy into following Vickie’s Core Curriculum for Legal Nurse Consulting® textbook exactly. When there’s a proven formula that works, why would I mess with it? Within six months, things started rolling.
My first case came from my listing in Vickie Milazzo Institute’s Directory of Certified Legal Nurse Consultants. A law firm in Miami hired me for a hospital oncology case and since then I’ve received three more cases from them.
Do What Vickie Teaches – It Works
Doing what Vickie recommends, I went to where the attorneys are. I began by exhibiting at the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association (ITLA) and set myself open to opportunity. I exhibited there determined not to shut myself off from anything, no matter how big or how small – and that really paid off. I began building relationships with attorneys and other exhibitors. Surprisingly, I received cases from both.
An attorney sent his paralegal to the ITLA specifically to find a legal nurse consultant. She found me because I was actively exhibiting and gave her attorney my name. The attorney called, asked about my CLNC services, started sending me legal nurse consultant jobs and the attorney was happy with my work. I’m working on three of this attorney-client’s cases now.
One thing led to the next. I met an exhibitor who owns a video company and produces “Day in the Life” videos of plaintiffs for attorneys. She contacted me and shared that an attorney had requested a court-ordered video that required a speech therapist, a physical therapist and an occupational therapist, among others. Although she had a staff of 12 people, she asked if I could organize this video for them. I said, “Of course.”
Then I had to scramble to coordinate people, places and things. The patient was injured and in a nursing home. We wanted to show how seriously injured she was. I’m even the RN in the video! It took six hours to shoot and the result was phenomenal.
Edited to a 20-minute video, the attorney can show it to opposing counsel before trial. Knowing the jury will see how pathetic this unfortunate patient is and how much care she needs, they probably will settle.
The experience of preparing this video for the attorney and the family has, so far, been the most interesting and out-of-the-box thing I’ve done as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. Yet what did I do but use the same skills I used for more than 30 years in nursing? In a hospital we have to get people from one place to another. We coordinate patient care. We find experts. We ask questions. That’s what RNs do.
Now when I review cases, I can recommend my usual list of services and, if needed, I also will recommend a “Day in the Life” video. While simply applying my nursing skills to coordinate it, I provide my attorney-client and her client powerful visual documentation.
Our Job Is to Educate Attorneys About the Entire Picture
Of the many things I love about my legal nurse consulting business, positive recognition from attorneys is the best part. Yesterday I received a compliment from a new attorney-client.
“Even for the cases that do not have merit,” he said, “I like your reports. They help me speak intelligently to my clients when I have to explain why theirs is not a meritorious case.”
That attorney-client summed up what finally allowed me to shrug off the fear. It’s not as if I have to write complicated science reports. I write relevant reports the way Vickie taught me using my experience and medical resources.
Most cases boil down to two factors: safety and communication. I’ve had everything from Coumadin cases, ear, nose and throat cancer cases to surgical cases and home care cases. It’s all nursing, and boiling it down to safety and communication helps me to identify the deviations from the recognized standards of care (SOC).
Many cases are caused by a safety failure, such as falls, surgical errors or a failure to monitor. Other cases come from lack of communication – in the chart, by phone, by shift, from emergency department (ED) physician to ED physician, or from ED physician in a small hospital to ED physician where the patient was transferred.
As a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant I’m seeing these errors all the time now, and I’m surprised at the large variety of mishaps that occur. People are not putting the entire picture together. The ED team and the family physician and other providers may all be looking at the same thing but are seeing something different.
A case in point: An elderly gentleman who had multiple medical problems that were well managed died of a Coumadin overdose. He allegedly bled to death because the physician had prescribed the wrong dosage. The man had chronic lung disease, he had had pneumonia and had been exposed to viruses while he was out hunting. When we went back and studied all the records from the physician’s office and the hospital, we discovered everything was normal until the last two days, even the blood count (protime and INR used to monitor the Coumadin).
The physician had changed the Coumadin dosage over the phone. Unfortunately, we cannot know if the caretaker heard the correct information. She was managing multiple medications, multiple dosages and she might have given two pills instead of one.
What was originally thought of as a negligent prescription could well be a miscommunication or failure to follow the physician’s order.
I’ve Built a Flexible Schedule and a Steady CLNC Income
In the short time I’ve been a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant, I already feel more confident, more successful and as if I’m doing exactly what I should be doing. Each legal nurse consultant job is like a school project. I approach every one asking, “What am I going to learn from this case?” And “How can I help my attorney-client?”
The attorneys respect that I can provide valuable information. They don’t always realize what they need until they start consulting with me. I recommend the specific policies and procedures they should request. I analyze both the nursing care and the medical care. Then they say, “Oh, yeah, that’s what I need.”
I’m an experienced masters-prepared nurse. Now, as a CLNC consultant, I can share this specialized knowledge with attorneys and as a subcontractor to other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants.
In less than two years, I have consulted on more than 50 cases. I have two cases on my desk right now. In addition to writing the reports, I’ve located the expert witnesses. I will be assisting my attorney-client with the certificate of need, preparing the interrogatories and deposition questions and preparing chronological timelines.
My intent was to build a flexible schedule and a steady CLNC income. That’s happening, and I’m loving it. Like Vickie says, “You only need one or two attorneys to stay busy full time.” Already I have an experienced medical-malpractice attorney who consistently sends me cases.
Following Vickie’s formula definitely works. My income level is growing, and because I’m an independent CLNC consultant billing by the hour, it is financially much more satisfying. Recently, I generated $4,000 revenue in one week. By staying on track and remaining consistent, I’ll soon need to hire a CLNC subcontractor.
Vickie is so energizing in her presentations, you can’t help but want to get out and do it. The CLNC Certification Program is intense and it’s not easy, but it’s also not complicated. As nurses, we already have the nursing and medical knowledge attorneys need. We just have to learn how to apply what we know in a different way to attorneys for their medical cases. That’s where Vickie and the CLNC Certification Program come in.
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