Interview with Alice Adams, Legal Nurse Consultant

    Alice Adams has lived in Atlanta since 1985 and began her Legal Nurse Consultant practice in 2005. Her clinical background is ICU and psych, and her work involves medical case analysis in civil litigation. This work includes research, identifying critical case elements, and collaborating with attorneys on case strategy and preparing chronologies, exhibits and client reports. Her work is split between defense firms (product and premises liability, medical malpractice) and claimant attorneys (personal injury, medical malpractice, workers compensation and merit reviews). She has coauthored several books, blogs regularly, is Past President of the Atlanta Chapter of the AALNC, and serves on the Board of Juris Educational Resource Knowledge for their annual conference in Raleigh. Alice is married to a clinical psychologist and has four children between the ages of 18 and 37.

    What event or series of events led you to pursue nursing as a professional choice?

    Actually, my nurse/mother directed me into nursing school and I entered with reluctance – I had never seriously considered a career in nursing. Fortunately, the nursing process came naturally to me, I enjoyed my classmates, lived in a hospital nursing dorm, and in short order, nursing was my life. This in spite of my genetic loathing for math and the amount of time it took to learn basic cellular metabolism. Around 2005, I entered the field of legal nurse consulting. I had already analyzed and summarized thousands of workers compensation records in my work. Over the next 18 months, I read a number of textbooks, developed a business and marketing plan, interfaced with other legal nurses and fell in love with this branch of nursing.

    Name 1 or 2 specific challenges you have faced in your career in nursing and the steps you took to overcome them?

    As a new nurse, I would faint at the sight of blood. Every time. A little was okay but a hemorrhage sent me straight to the floor, much to the hilarity of other nurses and annoyance of surgeons. The only cure for this autonomic response was time and repeated exposure. Working in a regional trauma center’s med/surg/burn ICU (yes, we mixed it up in the old days) finally desensitized me to all but my own blood. Paper cuts still make my woozy.

    Can you give us an example of an interesting case or project that you have worked on and your role in helping to achieve a positive outcome?

    I was one of the nurses who reviewed the medical records of 9-11 responders when money was allocated for their exposure-related illnesses. The reviews determined the level of severity and disability, thus the degree of compensation. I will always be proud of that. My biggest case was analyzing the injuries of six college ball players who were injured in a tragic bus accident. Those analyses were used to apportion settlement funds among the families. This challenge included the need for brevity and ability to predict healthcare needs. Most recently, I have been an item writer for the 2015 LNC National Board exam, and I have co-authored several books. See how nursing can take you all over the map?

    Can you describe what a typical day looks like for you or the activities you spend the most time on at work?

    I am no longer clinically active in a hospital. I still manage my husband’s practice part-time and use the rest of my work hours to consult with attorneys on a number of projects. Everything depends upon my computer – research, report writing, email, medical file transfer between attorneys and my office, managing my websites and social media, and staying involved with my national and local organizations. I have two large monitors hooked up to my computers at home and work so that I can run multiple programs simultaneously.

    What aspects of your work do you enjoy the most?

    Several things – my closest friends are fellow LNCs with whom I share problems and successes; we “get” each other with a combination of nurse/gallows humor and genuine affection. Then there’s research. While your newly NCLEX’d brain may feel like it is full to overflowing, much knowledge comes from experience. Truly, every single case requires research, because it isn’t enough to “know you know”, you must be able to explain it logically to attorneys, judges and juries, and back your conclusions and recommendations with hard facts. There are hundreds of special folders on my computer labeled by disease processes and each is from a unique case.

    What advice would you give to new graduates for getting hired after graduation?

    I often receive email from new graduates who want to become a legal nurse when they graduate, without realizing that the basis for this career lies in clinical experience in the field. To graduate straight into administration and leadership without experiencing patient care is to skip a vital step in your career. I believe every job has value and when knowledge is your goal, every situation is a learning experience. Consider taking less money for a unique position that interests you. Discard preconceived notions about what a nurse can and cannot do under her own power. Do not reject a job because you think it will not interest you (it will), or because you are afraid of the unknown (aren’t we all), or because others fail to endorse your personal decision. Today more than ever, a career in nursing will take you places you never considered. One of them will be right for you.

    What is the key strength you bring to your career and how would you advise new graduates to mine their own strengths to further their careers?

    I have been a voracious reader my entire life, and have an intrinsic feel for grammar and composition. I love writing and I abhor exclamation marks (you either get the point or you don’t). While I am not a creative fiction writer, analyzing and explaining conditions and disorders is rewarding. What did you enjoy in your hospital rotation; where do you naturally gravitate in other parts of life; what truly interests you? Find that interest, and you have found your career.

    We’d like to thank Alice for being so generous with her time and sharing her insights and advice with our readers. You can learn more about Alice Adams at her blog, Alice Adams.