“The attorney told me, ‘I learned more from you in 90 minutes than I learned from the neurologist who’s our testifying expert from Yale.'”
Following My Divorce I Started a New Chapter in My Life, a Chapter for Me*
by Jeanne Enderle, APRN, FNP-BC, CLNC
*Results are atypical and may vary from person to person.
When my marriage of 27 years ended, I had four teenagers to raise on a nurse’s salary. I saw Vickie’s ad and visited the LegalNurse.com website. The more I read, the more exciting legal nurse consulting sounded. I have a clinical practice in pediatrics. I love nursing and caring for people, and I don’t feel burned out with nursing. But I decided this could be a new chapter in my life, something I wanted to do for me personally.
I’ve always been a good detective. I like digging into the chart for every detail so I can understand what happened, how it happened and why it happened. And I’ve always been fascinated with the law and healthcare. I considered attending law school at one point. After taking Vickie Milazzo Institute’s CLNC® Certification Program and seeing all the shapes justice can take, I realized that healing is a very important part of justice.
I do a lot of advocacy and volunteer work with survivors of clergy sexual abuse. Having heard hundreds of survivor stories and seeing how justice and healing fit together, I saw a role I could play as a legal nurse consultant in preparing those individuals for deposition and trial by helping them find the words to describe their experience accurately. The words can only come from them, but as a nurse, I could pick up on subtle signs and know the questions to ask. In turn, I could translate the person’s answers into specific damages for the attorney. Knowing I could use my CLNC training to delve into this area of interest played a huge part in my decision to become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant.
On My First Legal Nurse Consulting Case I Kept Hearing Vickie’s Voice
My first legal nurse consulting job came in the form of a call from an attorney’s office looking for a nurse to testify in a case about side rails. I hadn’t worked in a hospital in over 20 years. I’ve been a nurse practitioner for 25 of my 30 years in nursing, and while I was sure I had information the attorney needed, I wouldn’t be the right person to serve as a testifying expert about side rails.
Nevertheless, I called and said, “Send me the case. I need to review it.” I communicated my fee and retainer policy to the paralegal, and said I would send a letter of agreement. “Ordinarily,” I said, “I would speak to the attorney about this.” Ordinarily? I had never done this before.
As I reviewed the records, I kept hearing Vickie say, “Make sure you address what the attorney really wants.” What I wanted to talk about had nothing to do with side rails. Nevertheless, I told him, “I’ll address the side rail issue, but that’s the least of your worries.”
The case involved a young woman who had finished chemotherapy and was in the hospital for a blood transfusion. She had very low hemoglobin and almost zero white count. She was on anticoagulants. I noticed she was admitted on Friday afternoon. They transfused her during the night, and early the next morning they found her on the floor, fully conscious, and they were mad that she had fallen.
The nurse noted, “The patient realizes she made a mistake in getting out of bed by herself.” What a self-serving note. The nurse had little to say about the injuries, claiming the patient just had a bump on the head. I was sure the woman must have had signifcant bruising and other injuries.
The woman vomited, lost consciousness and died of an intracerebral hemorrhage severe enough to herniate the brain. Horrified, I looked at her medications. They had continued to give her narcotic pain medication all day, even after she hit her head. She was nauseated, so they gave her Compazine. Basically, they masked every sign of increased intracranial pressure, except pupil dilation, which they only checked a couple of times.
90 Minutes Proved a CLNC® Consultant Is More Important Than an MD
When I walked the attorney through the case, he started mumbling under his breath. He clearly had no idea of the case’s enormity. He later told me, “I learned more from you in 90 minutes than I learned from the neurologist who’s our testifying expert from Yale.”
Before we finished talking, he asked if I knew anything about nonstress tests. I said, “Yes, I do.” Then he asked if I could find an OB expert. I could hear Vickie saying, Yes! “Yes, I can,” I said. That was my second case.
I’m in Exactly the Right Place and That’s Success
Being validated in this way is wonderful. My selling point to attorneys is that I can review a case far more economically than a physician can and that my review will be broad based and in greater depth because of my nursing perspective. In addition, I will streamline the case for the medical testifying expert.
At this year’s NACLNC® Conference, I was in the room ten minutes and I knew I was in exactly the right place. The conference is inspirational, like going to see old friends. My business is percolating because of the Certified Legal Nurse Consultant training I received.
I follow cases in the newspaper, and when I know I have something to contribute, I call the attorneys involved. The first time I had sweaty hands, but I phoned the Institute and a CLNC Mentor helped me prepare for the call. The case intrigued me. A woman had gone to an orthopedist for surgery, and he sexually assaulted her in the office. He also gave her antianxiety drugs, to which she became addicted. When I called the attorney, he said he had a doctor and nurses on staff. I told him what I had to offer was different. He listened and told me to send him my information. As the CLNC Mentor said, “That’s success.”
I Have Flexible Hours, I’m Valued, I’m Validated and I Love It
When I went to the Trial Lawyers Association Conference, I made a point of walking up to a senior partner in a high-profile law firm. I was trembling, but I shook his hand and said, “I want to thank you for all you’ve done on behalf of survivors of clergy abuse who have the courage to take their cases forward.” He looked at my name tag, and we started talking. Minutes later, his buddies were ready to go out for dinner and drinks, but we were still talking. Finally, he said, “Give me your business card. I’ll call you.” Without the marketing advice from Vickie’s CLNC Certification Program, I never could have done that.
I can’t say enough good things about being a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. My life has changed. I’m bringing my professional expertise into an arena of healing that takes great courage – clerical sexual abuse. I don’t anticipate this being my specialty exclusively, but I speak and publish on the issue. I have flexible hours. I’m valued. I’m validated. And I love it.
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