Nurse Paralegal: Educational Requirements
Nurse paralegals investigate legal issues related to health insurance claims and malpractice law suits. With a combined understanding of the medical field and legal terminology, nurse paralegals can determine whether patients received the appropriate level of care or if medical professionals acted negligently. Most nurse paralegals review medical records and other legal documents in an office setting.
Educational Requirements for a Nurse Paralegal
Most nurse paralegal certificate programs require applicants to be registered nurses (RNs). Educational requirements for becoming an RN usually include completing an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program in nursing. There are also some diploma programs that train individuals to become RNs, but these programs are difficult to find.
Before being accepted into a nursing degree program, some colleges and universities require students to complete prerequisite courses. Common prerequisites include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, microbiology and general psychology. After being accepted into a nursing program, degree coursework covers patient care, nursing procedures, child health nursing, adult health nursing, pharmacology and health assessment.
After completing nursing degree programs, passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) and gaining work experience as RNs, individuals can enroll in nurse paralegal certificate programs. Nurse paralegal programs are similar to regular paralegal programs since both require courses in legal terminology, legal writing, torts and contracts. Nurse paralegal programs differ in that they place emphasis on healthcare issues, including coursework in healthcare law, medical legal ethics, medical insurance law and malpractice law.
License Requirements for a Nurse Paralegal
Although paralegal licensure is not required, nurse paralegals must hold valid RN licenses. Eligibility requirements for RN licensure vary by state, but all states require applicants to pass the NCLEX-RN. The exam asks questions in three key nursing areas, including creating a safe and effective care environment, psychosocial integrity, and health promotion and maintenance.
Registered nurses must renew their licenses in accordance with state law. Some states require that nurses participate in approved continuing education coursework, while others require that nurses work a particular amount of hours within a given time frame.
Salary Information and Employment Outlook
As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), paralegals and legal assistants overall (including nurse paralegals) earned a median annual salary of $46,990 as of May 2012. Employment of all paralegals and legal assistants was expected to increase 18% from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.
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