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Nurses Find Paralegal Certification Broadens Skill Set and Spurs Career Advancement

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By Eileen A. Grena-Piretti, BSN, JD

Registered Nurses are increasingly finding that an understanding of the law – whether that has to do with litigation, insurance, quality assurance, patient privacy, standards of care, or compliance – is becoming a critical core competency AND a way for them to advance in their careers.

Widener University Delaware Law School offers a general paralegal certificate with a concentration in health law, which can help nurses take their next career step. A nurse paralegal’s professional opinion is highly valued. They assist lawyers on legal matters involving the representation of health care organizations, insurance companies, and physicians’ offices, or can also assist in situations such as personal injury and medical malpractice cases, insurance claims, and worker’s compensation claims.

Nurses may find our general paralegal certificate with a concentration in health law of particular interest. A clinical nursing background provides them with the ability to assist the attorney with reviewing medical records, identifying treatments the client received, and constructing medical chronologies, to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of medical evidence.

Imagine taking nursing (and possibly clinical) experience and a paralegal certificate to expand  work options with HMOs, insurance companies, government agencies,  law firms (including personal injury and medical malpractice) or in the risk-management and quality-assurance areas of hospitals, enabling the review of nursing practices that are in place and ensuring they are being implemented correctly.

One of the things that excites nurses about a paralegal role is that it allows them to not only continue to advocate for patients and their families, but also to work on a legal team representing physicians, nurses, nursing assistants and nursing homes and hospitals.  Objectivity is critical, but many have seen throughout their nursing careers that there are two sides to every story.

Nurse paralegals often serve as liaisons between the medical and legal worlds. This is a job that can require them to pore over medical records, looking for discrepancies or gaps (e.g., deviations from standard of care) that provide the full picture of what might have happened.

Examples might include reviewing the time gap between when a medication was due and when it actually was given, along with the appropriate dosage; or examining records for reasons for a delay in emergency treatment that resulted in catastrophic injury. In short, nurse paralegals read between the lines and identify a health care organization’s risk exposure in advance of a settlement discussion or trial.

Why are nurses becoming more interested in the paralegal field? The profession has been growing rapidly over the past decade and there is no reason to think it is going to slow down thanks to the increase in specialty health care. With that, there will likely be an increase in lawsuits, and being a nurse paralegal fills that demand and provides an excellent opportunity to have a rewarding and satisfying career in the medical-legal field.

Not surprisingly, paralegals work under the direct supervision of attorneys; they may not provide legal services directly to the public except as permitted by law.  Delaware Law School is approved by the American Bar Association. The objective of our Legal Studies program is to reflect the prevailing ethical and educational standards for paralegals established by the American Bar Association and, in many cases, provide skills that can be transferred to a different legal field.  We offer expert career counseling specialists who work with our students and alumni on such areas as building your resume, writing cover letters, networking, and interviewing.

Our general paralegal certificate with concentration in health law is 24 credits and may be completed in just a few months, for a quick pivot from a nurse’s current clinical role to a legal role. Paralegal classes are taught by attorneys and experienced paralegals and offer a robust curriculum with practical skills training to enhance and apply demonstrated legal concepts. To meet the demand of busy professionals, classes are offered both at our Wilmington campus and online.

Delaware Law School has offered paralegal programs for more than twenty-five years and is proud to be named “Best in State” by paralegal.edu.

Before committing to a degree program, students may attend classes by taking up to three qualified courses from such areas as contracts, torts, ethics, medical malpractice, and more.

We look forward to welcoming students to our spring semester, which begins on January 11, 2021. Join us for a virtual open house to learn more!

Eileen A. Grena-Piretti, BSN, JD, is assistant dean and executive director of the Delaware Law School’s Graduate, International, Compliance & Legal Studies Programs. Click here for more information or e-mail questions to DelawareLawGICLS@widener.edu