How to Become a Nurse Consultant
In the four decades since its emergence, the role of the nurse consultant has been instrumental in encouraging strong leadership, continuing education, and outstanding service in health care settings.Nurse consultants are registered nurses (RNs) who identify problems and develop solutions for patient care. They bring a fresh perspective to health care settings, helping facilities identify inefficiencies and make improvements to their care delivery strategies.
Research indicates the positive impact a nurse consultant can make in improving medical care around the globe: from increasing participation in cancer treatment follow-up to supporting nurses who care for patients. In a 2021 study in the Australian nursing journal Collegian, patients and health care professionals cited the value of nurse consultants in enhancing care for sarcoma patients. The results of that study led researchers to call for enhanced support for the role.
RNs interested in working to improve patient care should consider a career as a nurse consultant. An advanced nursing degree, such as master’s in nursing, can help nursing professionals expand their knowledge of the field and its best practices. Pursuing this education can be a key step in the process of
What Do Nurse Consultants Do?
While holding an RN license, nurse consultants often don’t work directly with patients. Instead, they work to enhance patient care by focusing on improving a health care facility’s efficiency and compliance with clinical, operational, or legal functions. They might address human resources (HR) and management issues, analyze patient care processes, or investigate legal cases.
Nurse Consultant Job Tasks
The specific tasks of a nurse consultant may vary —clinical, operational, or legal.- according to their type of work. For example, a legal nurse consultant acts as a liaison between health care professionals, legal teams, and patients.
A legal nurse consultant’s duties may include:
- Assisting with legal investigations for physicians, private investigators, attorneys, or insurance organizations.
- Researching medical literature and records.
- Developing customized patient care plans.
- Ensuring compliance with organizational, local, state, and federal health care guidelines and regulations.
- Finding medical, professional, and legal experts to support cases and conduct background checks.
- Identifying problems, developing solutions, and coaching professionals and patients.
- Investigating allegations such as hospital malpractice and nursing home negligence.
- Offering medical education to patients, families, and health care staff.
- Performing cost-of-care estimates.
- Presenting a health care expert’s opinion on medical issues to legal professionals.
- Testifying as an expert witness in cases involving fraud, workers’ compensation, abuse, or medical malpractice.
Some nurse consultants are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who possess expertise in a specific area. Their focus may be on any of the following:
- Health concern, such as pain or injury.
- Medical subspecialty, such as nephrology or oncology.
- Population, such as pediatrics or women’s health.
- Setting, such as long-term care or schools.
- Type of care, such as psychiatric or acute.
Nurse Consultant Work Locations
Many nurse consultants work mainly from home or another remote location. They visit health care facilities as needed to observe the operations. Other settings where nurse consultants work include the following:
- Government agencies
- Consulting firms
- Health care practices
- Insurance companies or health maintenance organizations (HMOs)
- Business legal departments
- Law firms
- Patient safety organizations
The Steps to Become a Nurse Consultant
The path to becoming a nurse consultant starts with working toward an RN license, which typically requires at least an associate degree. Additional education, along with experience and certifications, can strengthen individuals’ nursing knowledge—and prepare them to start their own nurse consulting business, if they choose to do so.
Nurse Consultant Education Requirements
While earning an associate degree can qualify a student for a role as an RN, many RNs hold a bachelor’s degree. Some also go on to earn an advanced degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), paving the way to become an APRN. Nursing education programs usually include clinical experience and courses in topics such as:
- Liberal arts
- Social sciences
MSN programs may include tracks for nursing education and business-focused courses as well. Among the topics they cover are:
- Business leadership
- Curriculum design
- Financial management
- Human resources
- Nurse educators’ role
- Strategic planning
Nurse Consultant Licensing Requirements
Nurse consultants are licensed RNs. State nursing boards establish licensing requirements, which vary by state. The minimum requirements for licensing, however, typically include a degree from an approved nursing program and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Other requirements may include background checks and continuing education.
Those who earn an advanced degree, such as an MSN, can apply for state and national APRN licensing and certification. While state requirements for APRN licenses vary by state nursing boards, the licenses generally require an RN license, graduate-level education, and national certification. Among the national certifying bodies for APRNs are:
- American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB)
- American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC)
- Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB)
- American Midwifery Certification Board (AMCB)
- National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA)
Certification by these organizations requires periodic renewal.
Other certifications are available, depending on the focus of a nurse consultant’s work. For example, legal nurse consultants could seek certification through the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC) program.
Nurse Consultant Work Experience Requirements
While some organizations seek nurse consultants with years of experience in nursing leadership roles, no set standards exist regarding work experience for nurse consultants. What distinguishes a nurse consultant is expertise as an RN, which helps the nurse consultant understand medical records and procedures, as well as knowledge of business and leadership issues.
Nurse Consultant Salary
While salaries vary according to education level, years of experience, and job location, the median annual salary for nurse consultants was about $87,500 in July 2021, according to PayScale. The lowest 10% of earners had a median annual salary of less than $65,000, while the top 10% of earners had a median annual salary of more than $123,000.
Different types of nurse consulting roles command different salaries. For example, PayScale reports that the median annual salary for clinical nurse consultants was about $83,600 in July 2021. For legal nurse consultants, the median annual salary was around $78,900 in August 2021.
Put Your Strength and Talent to Work as a Health Care Leader
Those wanting to learn more about how to become a nurse consultant—and help lead the way to improved clinical efficiencies—should explore Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Nursing program.
At Norwich, students learn from doctorate-level faculty, gain skills and knowledge that can be put to use right away, and prepare for careers as nursing leaders. Students also enjoy the convenience and flexibility of an online education. Discover how Norwich’s online MSN can help you pursue your professional goals.
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