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Healthcare Law Careers

Medical Careers in the Legal Field

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Are you interested in healthcare but also passionate about the legal field? If you are seeking a career that combines law and healthcare, there are a number of careers from which to choose. Some careers are more heavy on the healthcare side, and others are more involved in legal affairs than others. Not all of these careers require a law degree.

Forensic Nursing

Forensic nurses are nurses who specialize in treating victims of crimes or trauma. They have specialized training in sciences applicable to victims such as psychology, stress management, and more in addition to general nursing skills and knowledge.

According to Vida Lock, Director of Cleveland State University nursing school, "forensic nursing bridges the gap between health care and law enforcement. It’s the application of the science and art of nursing to criminal and civil investigations and legal matters. Forensic nurses provide care to victims and perpetrators of trauma or death due to traumatic events or criminal acts."

Forensic Pathologist

A forensic pathologist is a physician who has trained in the science of pathology, which entails the analysis of tissue, bodily fluids, and cells for diagnosis and data. Forensic pathologists specialize in analyzing bodies of deceased individuals to determine cause of death, and to collect scientific (forensic) evidence to help determine who was responsible for a death if it is determined that cause of death was a homicide.

A medical degree is required, but not a separate law degree, for this role. Forensic pathologists may work for an independent lab, or for a government municipality as a coroner or medical examiner.

Medical Malpractice Attorney

Medical malpractice attorneys specialize in trying cases involving a mistake, or alleged mistake made by a physician, that was detrimental to a patient's life, or, in some cases, ended a patient's life prematurely. When a medical mistake occurs, the patient, or family of the patient, seeks compensation for pain and suffering and loss of work, among other things that may have been caused by the physician's mistake, or "malpractice."

Medical malpractice attorneys have a law degree (J.D.)from an accredited graduate law school, and some may have a master's or doctorate level degree in a healthcare-related discipline but that is certainly not required in order to practice as medical malpractice attorney.

Some medical malpractice attorneys may specialize in representing the patient's side of the law suit, (plaintiff), while other medical malpractice attorneys may specialize in defending physicians against a claim.

Medical Expert Witness

In some law cases that involve medical malpractice, or personal injury or death, medical professionals may be needed to lend their expertise, and to testify in cases for the defense or the prosecution. This may include but is not limited to psychologists, doctors, pathologists, medical social workers, and more.

Expert witnesses should ideally have clean backgrounds and solid credentials including professional experience as a clinician, and preferably graduated from a top medical school and residency training program. In substantial cases, medical experts may be compensated tens of thousands of dollars for their testimony. However, according to Giles Sexton, criminal defense attorney in Dacula, Georgia, the legal team typically seeks expert witnesses who are not professional expert witnesses. Therefore, being an expert witness is not typically a full-time career, but can be a great way for healthcare professionals to earn some extra money on the side.

Correctional Medicine

People who are in prison need healthcare services too. It is easier and safer for healthcare workers to treat convicted criminals in prison than to move prisoners to a healthcare facility for treatment, unless they need emergency care. Therefore, there are many careers available in prisons, detention centers, and jails for physicians,dentists, registered nurses, and advanced practice nurses.
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