The medical field is highly complex, filled with nuances and ethical and scientific stipulations that are hard for people who are not health care professionals to understand. By the same token, the field of law is also extremely dense and filled with procedures, loopholes, and fine print that are hard for people who not legal experts to understand. Yet, the two fields often intertwine, especially in cases where health care practices and practitioners are called into question. Nurse attorneys are experts in both law and health care issues. They work in analyzing personal injury or insurance claims and may also act as consultants or expert witnesses in the courtroom where a medical legal case is being presented.
Nurses looking to become nurse attorneys have a rigorous education regime to complete before they can practice. First, they must become registered nurses (RNs), which can be accomplished through the completion of either a diploma program from a nursing school, an associate degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Then, they must pass the NCLEX-RN examination to gain licensure as an RN. In addition, aspiring nurse attorneys must earn another degree, this time in law. To earn the required Juris Doctorate degree, prospective nurse attorneys must complete a three-year law school program and successfully pass the state bar licensing examination. After completing formal education, nurse attorneys can choose to join the American Association of Nurse Attorneys (AANA) to gain contacts within the field.
Working as a nurse attorney demands that the nurse be responsible, willing and capable of handling challenging cases, and eager to bridge the gap between medical knowledge and legal knowledge. With an increase in legal cases due to the increase in population and therefore patient numbers, the need for nurse attorneys will remain stable well into the future. Nurse attorneys earn varying salaries depending on their work experience, employer, and geographic region. For example, a position working with the health care procedures of a native tribe in Washington pays about $115,086 annually, according to a job posting on the American Association of Nurse Attorneys, but that figure may change for nurses working on the East coast or for a bigger company.