A nurse attorney is a registered nurse (RN) who has also earned their juris doctorate (JD) and can practice in the field of law and medicine. (This is different from the legal nurse consultant, who may not have a JD.) Most nurse attorneys work in administrative roles in order to make the most effective use of their education and experience. The world of healthcare is one that is strongly governed by laws on the local, state and federal levels for patient and practitioner safety. Someone who decides to become a nurse attorney has the option to work in the medical field or to become a practicing attorney with a focus in healthcare. A nurse attorney can also find themselves working for legislators to help draft the next round of healthcare laws or modify existing laws.
The nurse attorney is a specialized role that brings together the roles of lawyer and nurse into one person. People who hold both the BSN and JD can find employment in either field as well as work for insurance companies. Becoming a nurse attorney opens up a wider range of career options than either role can offer on their own.
How to Become a Nurse Attorney
Nurse attorneys usually start by earning their nursing degree and passing the NCLEX-RN. An associate’s degree is required to become an RN, but you need a bachelor’s degree at the very least to become a nurse attorney. The JD is a post-graduate degree which means a student has to earn their bachelors of science in nursing prior to taking the LSAT and attending a law school. However, most nurse attorneys don’t go straight to law school after getting their BSN. Instead, they go to work in the healthcare field for a period of time in order to gain practical experience that can aid them in their desire to become a lawyer and a nurse.
Having practical experience as a nurse prior to earning a JD allows you to become an effective advocate in either role. And having insider knowledge of how the law applies to health care and intimate knowledge of medical care for patients is a potent combination. There is no reason why a student can’t earn their JD after graduating with a BSN and passing the NCELX-RN. However, the experience gained during a nursing career is what drives the role of the nurse attorney. A career as a nurse attorney is best served by working as a nurse for a period of time before taking the LSAT and attending law school. Healthcare knowledge is complex and takes time to understand. The better your comprehension, understanding and experience in healthcare, the more effective you can be as a nurse attorney.
What Does a Nurse Attorney Do?
A nurse attorney is qualified to work in the legal and healthcare fields. That means you need to decide where your passion lies and follow the career path that is most sensible for you. Both roles revolve around advocating for a patient or client and you do have to decide where your talents are best used.
Some of the duties and roles a nurse attorney has can include:
- Review medical records for insurance claims
- Advocate for medical providers in malpractice claims
- Develop hospital policies
- Consult for health care professionals
- Educate healthcare workers in regulations and laws that affect their work
- Represent patients in lawsuits against various entities
As a nurse attorney, you typically step back from your role as an RN and take up administrative or legal work. No longer do you work in a specific department at a hospital or for a medical office. Instead, you work in the legal department of a health care facility or work as a practicing attorney in a law office. How you apply your education and experience depends on what area of healthcare law that’s right for you. This is why it’s important to work as a healthcare professional for a period of time prior to returning to school and studying the law.
How Much Does a Nurse Attorney Make?
The role of nurse attorney is a hybrid and the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have salary data for the nurse attorney.. However, an RN earns $73,300 a year and an attorney earns $122,960 per year on average. Nurse attorney salaries are typically commensurate with that of a lawyer. The average nurse attorney salary is dependent on location, employer and demand, but the specialized knowledge required for the role means that nurse attorney salaries are on the high end. Employers are willing to pay higher salaries for this role and the employment future for a nurse attorney is good due to the fact that there will always need to be people trained in healthcare and law.