3 Rookie Mistakes



LNCtips.com: 3 Rookie Mistakes

We all start as new legal nurse consultants with a good understanding of nursing care and procedures. However, most of us start as LNCs with very little understanding of legal procedures. Let's face it - we start out as rookies and sometimes we make rookie mistakes. Don't let these three rookie mistakes happen to you.

1) Sending an expert the firm's only copy of an x-ray or medical records. I've never done this, but I know some in-house LNCs who have. They send the records or films because an attorney insists on sending the material to an expert IMMEDIATELY. However, that leaves the firm without its copy. Situations like this never end well. The firm has to get the copy back from the expert (How embarrassing is that?) or pay the health care provider for another copy. The solution is simple. Tell the attorney you'll handle it right away. Then don't send out original medical records or radiographs. It takes two minutes to copy a CD of x-rays. It may take longer to copy or scan medical records, but that time is negligible compared to the time, effort, and expense to get the material back from the expert or to obtain another copy from the original source.

2) Writing reports without the client's knowledge. This mistake doesn't apply to in-house LNCs who may have carte blanche to write any case reports they want. That's because those reports are considered confidential work product. Experts LNCs are another matter. For example, in some states, anything that an expert writes about a case (including reports, emails, and notes in the margins of medical records) is discoverable and the expert must produce it to the opposing party. This varies by state; that's why it's important to ask the attorney if a written report is required or discoverable. Reports written by independent LNCs are considered work product so that's not an issue. However, writing a report (and charging the attorney for the time to write it) without the client knowledge is a poor business practice that may destroy the LNC/client relationship.

3) Ignoring or forgetting deadlines. As nurses, we all know the importance of deadlines. For example, nurses must give medications on time. In medicine, deadlines are flexible. For example, nurses administering medications don't have to give them exactly at the scheduled time; nurses can give them within one-half hour before or after the scheduled time of administration in most hospitals. In addition, nurses can use judgment when meeting deadlines. For example, if a patient is vomiting, nurses won't automatically give oral medications at the scheduled time. Instead, they'll notify the physician and perhaps obtain an order for parenteral versions of the medications. Legal cases have deadlines too, and those deadlines aren't as flexible. Attorneys can't alter legal deadlines easily. To do so can require motions, hearings, and/or cooperation from the opposing side. Naturally, it's in the firm's best interest to meet all of its deadlines for statutes of limitations, presuit, discovery, and trial. In some circumstances, attorneys who miss deadlines could also face sanctions for professional negligence. LNCs responsible for different types of legal deadlines MUST set up a tickler system to prevent the consequences of missed deadlines.

New LNCs are still learning the legal system. But you now know these legal system pitfalls, so you won't make any rookie mistakes!

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...Katy Jones