In my interview of BASF Paralegal Section’s Mitzi Wortman, she shares her path to becoming a Certified Legal Nurse Consultant and the deepest influences in her life: family, community and creative expression.
Education and certifications
I received my Associate of Science in Nursing from Portland Community College, Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Portland State University, and from San Francisco State University: Master of Fine Arts in Photography, and two certificates as Legal Nurse Consultant [LNC] and Paralegal. I am also a board-certified Psychiatric Nurse and Nurse Case Manager.
A tragic event influenced my career choice: My father died after heart surgery, and years later the surgeon admitted that he had cut an artery and couldn’t stop the bleeding. My career began 40 years ago as a medical nurse and 20 years ago as a nurse case manager for insurance companies, HMOs, private psychiatric hospitals and clinics, including psychiatric nursing work at Sequoia Hospital in Redwood City and medical case management and discharge planning at Seton Hospital.
Through my company, Legal Nurse Services, I contract with attorneys as a legal nurse consultant and expert witness and I am an advocate for plaintiffs in Defense Medical Examinations (DMEs), with the power to intervene in inappropriate exams. I also contract with third party insurance payers in field cases involving injured workers through California’s Workers’ Compensation. Finally, I teach and mentor RNs who want to become nurse case managers and LNCs.
Advice for those interested in a Legal Nurse Consultant career
You must have an active RN license. While the state does not require an LNC certificate, it is a crucial bridge to understanding medical-legal issues and how to communicate effectively with legal professionals. Law has its own complex language quite different from medicine, and you need to teach your legal team about medical issues. You must possess a high level of ethics and people and social skills.
What LNCs do
You analyze medical records for standard of practice; evaluate the merit of cases involving nursing practice and general medical care; and may testify as expert witnesses to the standard of care that was breached for nurses.
What LNCs must avoid
As with paralegals, you must not engage in the Unlawful Practice of Law, such as offering advice to a nurse who received a complaint through the California state board. Instead, refer the individual to a nurse attorney specialist.
I was raised in a close-knit community in the Northeastern mountains of Oregon surrounded by wildflowers and animals. We children grew up knowing that an adult would always be present to care for us and felt free to run wild and play in the creek without fear. I was encouraged to do anything I wanted to – a huge message for a little girl. That experience instilled a deep trust in me of community.
My way of working with people comes from those beginnings: You tell the truth and know whether you can trust someone. That’s why I am passionate about legal nursing: I shed light on fraud, malpractice and on those who take advantage of people who have become victims of their own health care services.
Recipe for sanity
As a psychiatric nurse, it’s challenging to unplug. My cat gives me unconditional love and lowers my blood pressure, and my family, friends, art and photography feed my soul.
About the author:
Ana Fatima Costa RPR, CSR, is Marketing Coordinator of the Executive Committee of BASF’s Paralegal Section. Contact her at www.anafatimacosta.com.