Did you know that you can work as a medical paralegal if you are interested in both law and healthcare? Working as a medical paralegal requires a high level of expertise and is usually well compensated. But what do they actually do, and how do you become one?
Medical paralegals play an important role in facilitating communication between medical professionals and their patients. Because of this, they are an integral part of our healthcare and legal systems. Stick with us as we go over the requirements, job duties, and salary for this legal profession.
What Is a Medical Paralegal?
Simply put, medical paralegals are legal professionals who specialize in medical law. They provide a legal framework and advice to medical practitioners regarding any medical procedures, issues, or concerns that may arise during patient care or treatment.
A medical paralegal’s duties can widely vary, from drafting patient charts to aiding in advance care planning. They can work in many settings, like private practice, insurance companies, hospitals, and other medical facilities. They typically work 40 hours per week, with some overtime as needed.
In either case, a paralegal must be able to handle sensitive and confidential information with tact and discretion. As intermediaries between patients and healthcare providers, hospital-based paralegals frequently deal with medical records and provide direct care for some patients.
Medical paralegals in law firms, on the other hand, frequently collaborate with lawyers and other legal staff members. Depending on the firm, they may work on a specific attorney’s caseload or handle a wide variety of matters.
Medical Paralegal: Job Description
Many medical paralegals appreciate the variety of their responsibilities as well as the ability to quickly move from one interesting case to another. However, they must deal with a large amount of paperwork on a regular basis.
Paralegals perform a variety of tasks without an attorney, despite the fact that they are not licensed to practice law. The following are some of the tasks that a healthcare paralegal may be responsible for:
- File organization and case documentation for attorneys
- Examining medical malpractice claims in order to identify cases
- Creating case status reports, which contain details about ongoing cases like status updates and any potential problems
- Preparing pleadings and other legal documents such as trusts, wills, contracts, and other agreements
- Medical paralegal jobs require research into medical literature, medical laws, case law, and other sources to find relevant facts or precedents for a case
- Direct communication with witnesses, clients, and other parties involved in litigation to gather case information
- Checking the accuracy and completeness of health records
- Obtaining information about cases involving complex medical issues from medical experts and other sources
- Coordinating the case strategy with other attorneys or legal personnel involved in the case
Most of the time, a legal assistant’s ability to research and understand health care regulations and medical terms will be improved by their knowledge of health and labor laws, insurance issues, nursing, and medical billing software.
Preferred Medical Paralegal Skills and Knowledge
Many people who work as medical paralegals have previous experience in the medical field, either as nurses, medical assistants, or aides.
It is imperative that they have the necessary skills to help attorneys build strong cases. Let’s take a look at what those skills are:
- Great research abilities
- Excellent knowledge of medical terminology
- Outstanding organizational skills
- Knowledge of electronic health records and medical systems
- Discretion in handling confidential information
- Familiarity with legal research software
- Familiarity with HIPAA
- Understanding of Medicare and Medicaid
How To Become a Medical Consultant Paralegal?
The steps to becoming a paralegal, let alone a medical paralegal, may appear daunting at first glance. To help you understand the educational requirements and most important paralegal certification needed to become a medical paralegal, we will quickly go over them.
Paralegal Education: Get a Degree
Many aspiring paralegals choose an associate’s degree in paralegal studies, which is often the minimum requirement for paralegal positions. Naturally, a bachelor’s degree in law or a related field is preferred.
If a student has no prior experience in the medical field but is interested in becoming a medical paralegal, they should enroll in a paralegal program and then take the necessary classes to earn a certificate in paralegal work.
Get Your Medical Paralegal Certification
Accreditation is a necessary step toward a successful career as a medical paralegal. The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA) and the National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA) are just two of the many groups that offer paralegal certification.
Also, the only certification for paralegal medical consultants right now is the Legal Nurse Consultant Certified (LNCC), a credential obtainable from the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants.
Outside of a few states, paralegals are not regulated by the government at any level (federal or state), giving businesses the freedom to set their own criteria for hiring new employees.
It should be noted that many employers today prefer paralegals with paralegal credentials or degrees, so having some kind of certificate is definitely preferable to having none.
Start Building Your Medical Paralegal Resume
You should gain experience and start building your resume in areas of law related to healthcare and medicine, such as malpractice, insurance claims, personal injury, or workers’ compensation law. Moreover, helping out at free clinics or hospitals is another great way to get your foot in the door.
Medical Paralegal: Salary and Job Outlook
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics states that employment of paralegals and legal assistants is expected to grow by 14% from 2021 to 2031. Additionally, paralegals who focus on health care law frequently find employment in healthcare facilities, medical malpractice law firms, and insurance companies.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual pay for paralegals and legal assistants in 2021 was $56,230; however, the salary information for medical paralegals is not available. The size of the law firm they work for, their level of education and experience, and where they work all affect how much they get paid.
As the population ages, there will inevitably be a greater demand for healthcare paralegals in law firms, medical facilities, and private businesses. Hiring a medical malpractice paralegal can help keep costs down by reducing the number of medical malpractice claims and providing efficient legal assistance.
As a medical paralegal, you must stay current on healthcare laws and regulations in order to provide everyone with the most up-to-date, accurate advice possible. It is an interesting position for those who enjoy helping others, and the fact that success in this field can pay off handsomely doesn’t hurt either.
There is no doubt that the medical industry will continue to grow and prosper in the foreseeable future, creating numerous job openings. Those with medical paralegal training should have no issue finding employment.