Nurse consultants can be important resources for medical facilities navigating the ever-changing maze of health care. Learning how to become a nurse consultant requires understanding several components, some unique to the profession and some that cross over into other areas of the health care industry.
Nurse Consultant at a Glance
A nurse consultant is a registered nurse (RN) or nurse practitioner (NP) who works as a clinical consultant, an operations consultant, or a legal nurse consultant.
Clinical nurse consultants are advanced practice RNs or NPs and health care leaders who are trained within a specialized area of nursing, such as pediatrics or oncology. They’re also commonly trained in general areas, including physiology, physical assessment, and pharmacology. The responsibilities of clinical nurse consultants include not only patient diagnosis and treatment, but also administrative duties designed to shape the care strategies of an organization.
Legal nurse consultants are typically liaisons between clinics and lawyers, providing insight into medical problems associated with difficult health care issues, such as malpractice or personal injury. Their clear understanding of these issues could yield solutions for potentially removing impediments to a clinic’s delivery of high-quality health care that improves patient outcomes.
Nurse consultants may work for themselves or for a consultancy or agency. If they work for a consultancy, they’re considered employees who travel for work and engage with a health care system, hospital, clinic, or medical practice. If they work for themselves, they typically work remotely from their home office, although they may work at a health care facility that has hired them to do consulting work. Although the duties they perform and the way they perform them are unique, compared with other nursing functions, the services they provide are still within the scope of the nursing profession.
The first step in learning how to become a nurse consultant is to become an RN. Although it’s not technically necessary, most nurse consultants pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Some may pursue an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), to gain an even deeper understanding of the nursing profession or to obtain prescriptive and independent practice authority. Nurse consultants who plan to work for themselves should take several business courses.
Nurse consultants must obtain a license that complies with the laws in the state where they plan to practice. At a minimum, getting the license requires passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Some states have additional licensing requirements. Certification isn’t required to become a nurse consultant, although becoming certified may open a wider range of opportunities.
Duties and Skills
Because legal nurse consultants operate in the space between the medical and legal professions, their responsibilities are typically drawn from both. For instance, they may be tasked with conducting in-depth research on medical records or analyzing data to provide insight into a case or to define specific medical standards. They may also provide information to legal counsel regarding medical issues or acceptable practice standards. In some cases, they may be called upon as witnesses in a trial to explain complex medical procedures or issues.
Clinical nurse consultants work with a medical clinic to provide support to nursing staff, help influence organizational change, and ensure the use of best practices.
Some of the foundational skills to becoming a nurse consultant are similar to what’s seen in the nursing profession as a whole. Because they may be working with sensitive medical data, it’s important that they are discreet. They must also have sharp organizational and problem-solving skills so they can efficiently address potential issues. Consulting projects typically involve working with multiple people and groups, so strong interpersonal skills are important.
Salary and Benefits
The average salary of a nurse consultant is about $80,000, according to Indeed.com, an employment website. While the position can be full time, in certain employment situations, such as with a large medical group, a consulting position may require those in the practice to set their own hours and hourly rate.
Those considering a consultant position may find its benefits alluring. Being one’s own boss provides a unique sense of independence. Because home base is typically not in a clinic, nurse consultants may also avoid certain conditions associated with the clinical nursing profession, such as long hours or lack of sleep.
A Critical Role
Becoming a nurse consultant can thrust students into a valuable position in the medical field, one that provides solutions to issues that clinics or clients can’t solve on their own. This provides consultants the opportunity to enjoy a unique spin on the concept of helping others — the backbone of the nursing profession.
When considering graduate school as a path to becoming a nurse consultant, it’s important to consider both the school’s curriculum and how the program will fit into your life and work schedule. At Regis College, our MSN to DNP online program offers rigorous instruction, a deep academic curriculum, and a flexible online learning platform.