“There are 24 nursing specialties that grab attorneys’ attention for legal nurse consultant jobs in medical malpractice, personal injury, products liability, toxic tort and criminal cases. In addition to specific specialties, attorneys also need RNs from a variety of career paths to consult on legal nurse consultant jobs.”
– Vickie L. Milazzo
RN, MSN, JD
Attorneys litigate a tremendous variety of medical-related cases which necessitate analysis by legal nurse consultants. There are 24 nursing specialties that grab attorneys’ attention for legal nurse consultant jobs in medical malpractice, personal injury, products liability, toxic tort and criminal cases.
Medical and Nursing Malpractice Cases
Malpractice cases involve the professional negligence of healthcare providers (RNs, MDs, ancillary providers, etc.) or the negligence of healthcare facilities (hospitals, managed care organizations, clinics, etc.). Medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
Every specialty of nursing and medicine is at risk for medical malpractice. Outlined below are 24 nursing specialties and examples of litigation issues for each. As you review the 24 nursing specialties, consider your own specialty and all of the nursing and medical negligence issues that apply.
While surgical anesthesia negligence is less common today, when negligence does occur the result is often catastrophic. Defective equipment, wrong dosage of anesthesia and failure to monitor are the issues in the majority of anesthesia medical malpractice cases.
The most common legal nurse consultant jobs related to cardiac cases include failure to timely diagnose and treat myocardial infarction, pulmonary embolism, aortic dissection, interventional cardiology complications from arterial laceration and pulmonary vein stenosis after ablation.
Case Management and Rehabilitation
Case managers and rehabilitation nurses can create life care plans for catastrophically injured plaintiffs in any type of medical-related case. A life care plan is a plan for future healthcare needs (nursing, medical and ancillary, changes in the home environment and equipment and supplies).
Prisoners in the corrections system are more likely to sue and the lawsuits can be related to anything and everything. This creates a demand for legal nurse consultants who specialize in corrections.
Emergency and Air Transport
If there is nursing or medical negligence, the anonymity of the staff makes it easier for a patient to file a lawsuit without personal feelings for the provider coming into play. The plaintiff is essentially suing a faceless defendant. Common medical malpractice issues in emergency cases include triage, delay in treatment, premature discharge and misdiagnosis (M.I., stroke aneurysm, appendicitis and fracture). Air transport issues include stabilization during transport.
Gastroenterology cases often involve endoscopic complications, failure to diagnose colon cancer and perforation of the colon.
Patients are discharged from hospitals earlier than ever before. This means they arrive home sicker. In the home health environment common medical malpractice cases include the failure to hospitalize and the failure to timely seek medical intervention.
Infectious disease in hospitals is at an all-time high. Add superbugs on top of the infection epidemic and the environment becomes ripe for medical malpractice cases.
Long Term Care (LTC)
Management and Administration
Common legal issues in nursing malpractice cases include inappropriate staffing, inappropriate delegation and failure to adequately supervise. RNs with supervisory and management experience are best qualified to address these issues, as nurses at the bedside do not make staffing, delegation and supervision decisions.
Medical-Surgical (Med-Surg) and Critical Care
Medical-surgical legal nurse consultants are generalists and assist with many of the 24 specialties described from the medical-surgical perspective. They also consult with attorneys on IV infiltration cases and medical errors, which are at an unprecedented high in U.S. hospitals. Critical care nurses are viewed by attorneys as assets to the litigation team because they treat the most critical patients. Little stands between the critical care nurse and the patient in those situations where seconds mean the difference between life and death. Critical care issues in medical malpractice cases include patient monitoring, reporting, ventilator support and stabilization of patients.
Every brain-injured baby case necessitates an in-depth analysis by the legal nurse consultant of the first 24 hours of neonatal life and whether or not there was any exacerbation of birth injuries during those 24 hours. For example, failure to respond to respiratory distress is a common allegation in birth-related injuries. Additional neonatal issues include neonatal hypoglycemia and jaundice.
A common medical malpractice issue in neurology is failure to timely diagnose and treat stroke and brain injury.
Current legal nurse consultant jobs in neurosurgery include spinal and brain cases which can result in catastrophic damages.
Obstetrics and Gynecology (OB/Gyn)
Obstetrics is a compelling specialty for legal nurse consultant jobs because the damages can be catastrophic and long-term. One of the most grievous medical malpractice cases is hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy resulting in brain injury. Other commonly litigated issues are maternal or fetal death, mismanagement of preterm labor, mismanagement of high-risk pregnancy and brachial plexus injuries. Gynecology cases frequently include failure to timely diagnose and treat uterine and ovarian cancer.
The most commonly litigated issue in oncology is failure to timely diagnose and treat cancer which could have prevented untimely death. The world of oncology is expansive as is the need for legal nurse consultant jobs in this specialty.
Failed surgery cases involving the spine, shoulders and knees are widespread among the legal nurse consultant jobs in this specialty.
Post Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU)
The most highly requested legal nurse consultant jobs in PACU involve failing to identify post-op complications.
Pediatric nurses deal with many of the issues described in any of the nursing specialties addressed, but analysis for pediatric legal nurse consultants is unique to minors. Additionally, school nursing issues are commonly litigated in pediatric cases.
Lawsuits resulting from plastic or cosmetic surgery can involve nerve or tissue damage, disfigurement or scarring and infections.
Common psychiatric legal nurse consultant jobs involve suicide cases, misdiagnosis and inappropriate treatment of psychiatric disorders as well as improper use of pharmaceutical and physical restraints.
These cases involve failure to diagnose lung cancer and lung infections.
Surgical litigation most often involves catastrophic results, wrong site surgery, retention of foreign objects, damage to internal organs, nerve damage and post-op infections. Robotic surgery cases are the latest trend in surgical cases, which is probably attributable to the providers’ lack of training and experience.
Urology-related cases involve failure to diagnose prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancer as well as surgical mishaps.
Subcontracting Outside of Your Specialty
Subcontracting is the answer when a legal nurse consultant job is for a case that is not in the legal nurse consultant’s specialty. The CLNC® Certification Program completely covers how to subcontract with other Certified Legal Nurse Consultants and how to earn money leveraging other CLNC consultant’s expertise.
In addition to specific specialties, attorneys also need RNs from a variety of career paths to consult on legal nurse consultant jobs.
RNs at the bedside are tuned into what actually goes on with patients every minute 24/7. The attorney benefits by having them provide a real world (not theoretical) understanding of the nursing and medical issues.
RN supervisors and administrators are experts on the inner workings of the healthcare system, and legal issues such as staffing and delegation that are beyond the scope of the average bedside nurse.
An RN educator must be a strong writer and verbally articulate. Both skills benefit attorneys who have to explain complex issues in simple ways to jurors.
Nurse practitioners can cost-effectively educate attorneys about many medical issues because of their advanced practice level.
Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Specialist
Electronic medical records are widespread in almost every medical-related case and attorneys are stumped by them. EMR nurses are expert at unraveling the medical records for attorneys and Certified Legal Nurse Consultant colleagues who need guidance with EMRs.
Risk managers have experience reviewing thousands of medical records in a variety of specialties. While the review objective is different for risk managers than legal nurse consultants, their experience is quite relevant to the review process for attorneys. The risk manager’s generalist experience is of enormous value to an attorney who handles many types of cases.
General Personal Injury Cases
Personal injury cases are nonprofessional negligence cases. Whether an attorney is litigating an auto accident or a premises liability case, common injuries include those involving the spinal cord, back, neck, chest and head (e.g., TBIs). The common nursing specialties attorneys need for personal injury legal nurse consultant jobs include emergency, orthopedics, neurology, neurosurgical, medical-surgical and burn specialists.
Products Liability Cases
Products liability cases are those cases involving allegedly defective products resulting in injury. Cases involve the failure of medical devices such as IVC filters, power morcellators, transvaginal mesh and hip implants. Drug-related case examples are Risperdal, Benicar and Fosamax.
Products liability cases also include nonmedical device cases such as machinery and equipment, elevators, children’s toys and products, motor vehicles, food, household products and personal care products (e.g., talc). In products liability cases we see every conceivable (as well as some that are inconceivable) type of injury, therefore attorneys need every type of nursing specialty. For a specific case, the attorney will hire a legal nurse consultant with the specialty (burn, medical-surgical, psychiatric, etc.) that most relates to the injury. If a medical device or drug is implicated, an attorney will hire a legal nurse consultant who has experience with the device or drug in question.
Toxic Torts and Environmental Cases
Toxic tort cases involve the release of toxins and chemicals into the environment resulting in injury. Toxic tort case injuries frequently involve cancer and immune deficiency disorders. Whether the toxic tort case involves waste products from manufacturing processes or hazardous chemicals in the workplace, the common nursing specialties attorneys need for their legal nurse consultant jobs are toxicology, oncology and medical-surgical. Attorneys also need legal nurse consultants who are strong in medical literature research to assist in proving or disproving a causal connection between the exposure to toxins and chemicals and the alleged injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Cases
Common workers’ compensation cases from job-related injuries relate to equipment- and machinery-related injuries, injuries caused by objects striking workers, lifting heavy objects and auto accidents. Injuries include traumatic injuries, back injuries and cumulative trauma disorders. The nursing specialties attorneys frequently need for legal nurse consultant jobs in workers’ compensation cases are orthopedics, emergency, neurology and medical-surgical.
Myriad criminal cases are litigated including violent crimes, driving while under the influence (DUI), child, spouse or elder abuse and Medicaid/Medicare fraud and abuse, all of which involve medical records and physical and/or psychological injuries. Any related nursing specialty is relevant to the associated legal nurse consultant jobs. Sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), emergency, medical-surgical and psychiatric nurses are in demand for criminal cases.
For More Information on Nursing Specialties
Attorneys look for these common nursing specialties when hiring RNs for legal nurse consulting jobs. If your nursing specialty wasn’t addressed above, please contact Vickie Milazzo Institute at mail@LegalNurse.com or call 800.880.0944 and one of our Career Advisors can explain how your specialty fits into the attorneys’ world.
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