Memphis attorney Elizabeth Rudolph wants to help nurses all over the country broaden their financial horizons.
With 22 years of experience practicing health care law, as well as bachelor’s and master’s degrees in nursing from Vanderbilt University, Rudolph now combines those two fields to teach nurses to become expert witnesses and consultants in legal cases.
“I wanted to help educate and train nurses to use the skills they already have in other areas,” Rudolph said. “My experience as a nurse and an attorney and the many cases I’ve handled helps drive my passion to prepare nurses for what they can encounter.”
In 2006, Rudolph founded the Jurex Center for Legal Nurse Consulting, a company that teaches nurses how to transition their skills in reviewing and analyzing medical records to a legal arena, assisting with medical cases or claims.
Once participants complete Jurex’s two-day, $1,299 course – available in audio, video, online and live classroom formats – they become Jurex-certified Professional Legal Nurse Consultants (PLNC). According to Rudolph, they are then equipped to develop their own full-time practices or supplement an existing nursing job with consulting work for law firms, insurance agencies, hospitals or other health care businesses.
“This course is designed to give nurses more choices and the tools they need to exercise those choices,” Rudolph said.
This weekend (Oct. 19-20), she’ll be teaching a course from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites on Shady Grove Road in Memphis. Participants can register on the Jurex website (jurexnurse.com), by phone at 496-5447 or at the door.
In addition to the basics of legal nurse consulting, the Jurex course also covers report writing, marketing, research and testifying skills. Upon course completion, participants also receive a listing in Jurex’s expert directory, which attorneys across the nation can access for a single-search fee of $595 or through an unlimited yearly subscription for $995.
Rudolph said one reason she created her professional legal nurse consultants program was because other options for nurses who wanted to become legal nurse consultants seemed time-consuming, limited and costly.
Certification through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants (aalnc.org) is one of those options. The AALNC also offers a variety of legal nurse consultant courses and partners with the American Board of Nursing Specialties (ABNS) to certify nurses through its Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) program, which requires a minimum of five years of experience as a registered nurse, evidence of 2,000 hours of legal nurse consulting experience within the past five years and a passing grade on the biannual LNCC examination.
Both Rudolph and the AALNC say legal nurse consultants can provide attorneys with valuable assistance in extensive medical research and analysis. They also can bring specialized health care education and clinical experience to the litigation process, particularly in those cases that involve nurse practitioners.
According to the Nurses Service Organization’s “Nurse Practitioner 2012 Liability Update,” the average malpractice indemnity payment has increased 19 percent over a five-year period, rising from $186,282 to $221,852.
And although health care liability claims in Tennessee have been declining in recent years, the statistics are still significant. According to the most recent figures from the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, there were 6,282 health care liability claims either closed or pending in Tennessee at the end of 2011, slightly down from the 6,789 cases reported the previous year. The claimants were paid damages totaling $113.9 million by way of judgments, traditional settlements, and alternative dispute resolution.
Rudolph said one benefit of becoming a professional legal nurse consultant is that nurses can work from home as consultants on cases and claims all over the country. They’re not confined to one state, she said.
“The majority of the time, the professional legal nurse consultant is reviewing records in civil cases,” Rudolph said. “And it’s not like you have to be there physically. Records can be emailed or overnighted to the nurse for review. Nurses can do this job on their own schedules – you can do this job in your pajamas.”
She said a professional nurse consultant stands to make $150 an hour and describes the job as an excellent way for nurses to supplement their full-time nursing income.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual mean wage for a registered nurse in the Memphis area is $65,950. Current statistics on LNC earnings are more elusive. The most recent figures are from a 2004 AALNC survey. At that time 48 percent of the 1,089 respondents practiced legal nurse consulting part-time, 38 practiced full-time and 15 percent no longer worked as LNCs.
Of the part-time practitioners, 52 percent made $10,000 or less annually. Among the full-time practitioners, 22 percent made $50,001 to $60,000, 20 percent made $40,001 to $50,000, and 14 percent made $40,001 to $50,000.