Vickie: I’d like to introduce you to Renee Snyder, Certified Legal Nurse Consultant. Renee thank you so much for joining me here today.
Renee: Thank you for inviting me.
Vickie: What motivated you to become a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant?
Renee: I was director of a hospice house. It was a 24-bed unit and I was the only director in the building. I worked 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and I kept saying “Gosh, I really could use some help.” But the help never came and I thought “I can’t do this anymore.” I was working late at night, I was missing my grandchildren, I couldn’t see my husband, I was tired and I knew it was time. I felt very defeated and just beaten down so I knew I had to do something.
Vickie: Why legal nurse consulting?
Renee: Actually it was an interesting way I got to this place. I was looking for a job and I got a call from a law firm asking if I was interested in working for them. I thought to myself “What can I do for a law firm?” So I said I’d be interested in coming in and talking to them. I came in and talked to them and they talked to me about being their legal nurse consultant and talking to clients and working with the attorneys. I thought “I didn’t know there was such a thing” and said “Sure, I think I’ll give it a try.” I wanted to do something new so why not just jump into that?
Vickie: How did you overcome your fears of starting this new nursing career?
Renee: There were a lot of fears. There was a lot of self-doubt. I didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know what was involved and I didn’t have any idea what it was all about. So I started doing some research to find out what legal nurse consultants do and that’s when I found your program.
Vickie: I know that you ultimately came through the program and became certified. Did that help you with your job at the law firm?
Renee: Oh my gosh, it helped immensely! It helped me know what my responsibilities were. I had no idea about finding experts and how to do it. I had no idea about report writing and all the things that were involved in that and research. It was just so enlightening. It gave me an idea of what my role was, how I could help attorneys and how I could be a very important part of the team.
Vickie: Tell us about your role inside the law firm. I know it’s a plaintiff law firm.
Renee: It’s interesting because it’s a lot. My role starts with the calls. I take all the calls from people calling in who think they might have a case. I spend a lot of time talking to them, finding out what happened and what their perception of it was. And then, I consult with the attorneys and we decide whether or not it’s something they want to do and they think they can help. And then I review the medical records. I’ll tell them what medical records I want. I even follow through and meet with the client to get all the authorizations or the records. I read the records. I help the attorneys with depositions and questions. I go and listen at the depositions, so that if there’s any issues brought up that the attorney doesn’t know or understand, I’m there to take a break and tell them what they’re talking about. All the way through to when the case is completed and I get to that final discussion with the family knowing that you’ve helped somebody, and they feel very validated and listened to. Sometimes these families feel like they don’t even know what happened, so it’s very rewarding.
Vickie: You interact with the potential plaintiffs and the actual plaintiffs, so in some ways a lot of what you apply to nursing you can apply with these potential clients and plaintiff-clients, right?
Vickie: And I’m sure they find it easier to talk to a nurse than to an attorney.
Renee: As a matter of fact, everybody that we have had in the office has said that I’m the key. I think that they’re afraid sometimes to speak to the attorney and especially when you’re speaking about medical issues, they feel very comfortable talking to a nurse.
Vickie: Renee, what personal traits would you say have contributed to your success at the law firm?
Renee: There’s a few. A good sense of humor is a start. Also tenacity, because when you’re a legal nurse consultant you’ve got to really dig in and find out what happened and work your way through it. I think my critical thinking helps and multitasking because you’re not always working on the same case all the time. You have to flip from case to case. In the law firm I work at there are five attorneys, and they each have their own case loads. So I have to switch between attorneys and be able to switch gears very quickly to meet the needs of each one.
Vickie: So a lot of agility and it can probably be more fun and more rewarding to work with a variety of cases and more attorneys.
Renee: I think it’s great. I have one attorney who wants to know every detail. He wants to know what happened and how it happened. Then I have another attorney, when you’re looking at a case for him, he’ll call you in and say “In 10 words or less, tell me what happened.” So that can be challenging.
Vickie: Lawyers come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s great to be agile and be able to respond to each shape and each size. Every day you have to show up to this law firm, and I’m sure you have to show up with intention. Do you set some intention for your day and make decisions about how you want the day to play out, so that you are going to be able to really continue to excel in your role as a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant?
Renee: Yes I do. One of the things that I really like about that is when I make my day, and when I know I need to make the most of my day, being in this role gives me the opportunity to say “You know what? Today I’d really like a quiet atmosphere and I want to work from home.” It gives me the opportunity to say “I really want to work in the evening instead of coming in at 8 o’clock in the morning.” It’s a lot of autonomy, I should say, is what I like about it.
Vickie: I remember when you and I were talking and you mentioned that you definitely are earning more income, and we can talk about that, but the thing that struck me was that you said “It’s not about the salary, it’s about the total package.” Tell us about that.
Renee: Of course the income came with the job and I’ve been very fortunate, and I’ve been very successful in what I’m doing and the income continues to increase. I would have to say that the income started at about a 20% increase over what I was making in my other job. There are other things. I have a 401k, there’s bonuses, but the big thing to me is being part of the team and being valued. It’s the time, the autonomy, it’s the whole package in working here. I think I would still do it and do this job if the money wasn’t here, if there wasn’t the big increase that I had. It’s just such a wonderful profession.
Vickie: What I love about legal nurse consulting is that it is a profession that recognizes the expertise of registered nurses and you do get paid accordingly. It’s great to say that I would do this for less, but why should you? How many years of experience do you bring to the table Renee?
Renee: It’s a lot. Nursing has been my life’s career and this by far is one of the best parts. I worked 20 years in hospital and 20 years in hospice, but this is by far my love. I can just say it. I never dreamed I would be in this position.
Vickie: If there’s a registered nurse out there listening, are they going to think that they have to have 40 years in nursing in order to do this?
Renee: They don’t! It was one of my fears that I wouldn’t know enough or I didn’t have enough experience. You have to realize that everybody’s different and every case is different, and it might not be in my expertise I’ve known for 20 years and it might not be in their expertise. But there’s outreach, there’s other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants who will help you. You can reach out to the them and get some advice. And your program helped me mainly by teaching me how to get in and research, what I need to look for, how I need to look for it, how to get my experts, how to do the job and how to write the reports.
Vickie: Screen those cases. Write the reports.
Renee: What to look for. I think that the big thing you told me was how to look in that chart and find those things that are missing, find those things that are important and that has served me well. And I will say this, we have gotten a lot of referrals here at the office because they have a nurse. Not every attorney in our area employs a nurse. And so we have gotten a lot of referrals because I can read the records and let them know whether or not they have a case. It’s been very interesting.
Vickie: I know that you had a special luncheon after 5 years at the law firm. Tell us about that.
Renee: It was right before Thanksgiving, I was sitting in my office after our Thanksgiving luncheon and the senior partner called and said “What are you doing?” I said “Well, I’ve just had lunch” and he said “Come down here. Come to my office.” And I thought “Oh boy, something’s up.” Of course you don’t know what’s up when you’re summoned. When I walked down to his office and went in, all the attorneys were in his office and my heart started racing and I said “Okay, am I getting fired?” and the senior partner said “Oh no. You’re getting a raise. Sit down.”
Vickie: I love it!
Renee: It was so lovely because they told me how much they valued what I did and what I provided here at the office, and they told me they were giving me a raise. The senior partner said I’d have to be here at least 10 more years and I told him “I’m an old girl. That’s not going to happen.” It was nice to be appreciated and in this time, during the pandemic, it was nice for me to feel valued in this profession and doing what I’m doing, it just means the world to me.
Vickie: And the fact that they all showed up to say thank you and to congratulate you. One attorney could have said thanks and you’re going to get a raise.
Renee: Yes, that’s exactly right. It was a windfall and everyone was really cheerful. Vickie, when I got back up to my office that day I emailed you. I was so emotional and so grateful for the opportunity to be a legal nurse consultant and to be in this profession and to feel valued after all the years of service. When you give and you give and give and you never get back in a hospital or setting like that, because it’s a big organization. But to know that you’re valued and right before Thanksgiving! I just wanted to thank you because I don’t think that I would be where I am if I hadn’t found your program and got my certification, and I was very grateful and wanted you to know right then.
Vickie: Thank you Renee and thank you for representing your CLNC® peers. We really appreciate you and feel honored to have you as part of our membership.
Renee: Thank you. I appreciate everything you’ve done.
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