Medical Legal Nurse Consultant – Interview

Interview/LNC: Kim Bunker

© 2008 The Medical-Legal News

By Kate Darnell
for The Medical-Legal News

Kimberly Bunker, BSN, RN, LNC is a legal nurse consultant at Southern Cross Mediation & Legal Nurse Consulting, LLC. She resides in Alpharetta, Ga., with her husband Don, and children Sara, 11, and Taylor, 8. Bunker is the incoming president of the Atlanta chapter of AALNC.

Legal Nurse Consultant Kimberly Bunker on Legal Nurse Consultant Practice & Nurse Education.

Q: What professional titles do you hold?
A: BSN, RN, LNC and Registered Mediator with the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution.

Q: How many years clinical nursing practice do you have?
A: 20 years.

Q: What types of clinical nursing experience do you have?
A: Women’s health and OB, surgical intensive care with the majority of patients being trauma and vascular patients and a smaller population of neurological patients, mobile intensive care, RN/EMT, ED and a short time in home health care.

Q: What is your current clinical focus?
A: Currently my clinical focus is on teaching. I am a trauma nurse instructor for the TNCC and the Course for Advanced Trauma Nursing, as well as ACLS.

Q: Do you testify as an expert in your clinical field of nursing specialty?
A: Yes.

Q: Are you presently working clinically?
A: No, my current focus is teaching others the clinical practice of beginning and advanced trauma nursing practices and concepts.

Q: How many years have you worked in LNC practice?
A: 3.

Q: In what LNC specialty areas do you work?
A: Personal injury, product liability and the general transfer of expert knowledge for appropriate record representation regardless of the legal issue.

Q: Are you a consulting expert and in what area?
A: Yes — trauma and intensive care concepts of injury, physiological response to injury and management of clinical symptoms and syndromes singularly and in the presence of co-morbidities and how the nursing standard of care is applied by the nurse in this role.

Q: How did you become aware of legal nurse consulting as a specialty practice?
A: In 2004 I realized that I wanted to do more with my professional license to affect our healthcare environment and process by expanding into another arena where my knowledge and experience could serve as a foundation to advocate for patients and ultimately improve the outcomes of those patients who are entrusted to us. So, I began to research… and discovered legal nurse consulting and all the roles that provided the opportunity to do just that — and the future opportunities continue to grow with today’s technology.

Q: What interested you most about legal nurse consulting?
A: The opportunity to transfer expert knowledge and provide a service that supports improvement of patient outcomes; the entrepreneurial aspect of forming relationships with my clients and working as a team on each project and creating a business that has a purpose — a service-based vision and significant social and global value.

Q: Why did you go into LNC practice?
A: The wonderful opportunity to work with other professions within the healthcare environment…. As an RN I, as well as all RNs, have the privilege of carrying the trust that we are given by our communities that lends us the authority to use our inherent professional value to influence practices, policies and legislation.

Q: Describe your transition from clinical practice to LNC practice.
A: I had recently moved to Georgia and wasn’t working clinically at the time. I began exploring the legal nurse role and decided to take the course, so for me it was a focused effort on transitioning to a legal nurse role. It was shortly after completion of the course and start of my business that I decided I wanted to go back to the ED environment to augment my expert role options.

Q: How hard was it for you to get started in LNC practice? What barriers did you face?
A: The only barrier I faced and continue to face is the lack of training in business and technology. Given today’s business environment, technology is a must.

Q: Did you obtain any formal training? If so, where?
A: I completed the Canyon College Legal Nurse Consulting course. The national course wasn’t in place when I started, but the course was the most comprehensive at the time.

Q: Describe your first case.
A: It was a PI and premises liability case that had resulted in spinal cord injuries and life changing results.

Q: What is your most memorable case? Why?
A: A minor who received a depressed frontal skull fracture and because of the area of injury she is forever a different child — unable to function at the level where she once did. To look at her there is no obvious physical disability or injury, but she is forever altered.

Q: What was your most difficult case? Why?
A: A case of medical and nursing malpractice where a woman fell twice in the same shift as a result of overmedication and inappropriate monitoring. The second fall resulted in a significant facial bruise and subdural hematoma. There was inappropriate follow-up by the nurse and physician and the woman subsequently died hours later as result of the bleed and the inappropriate response to her injury.
The real difficulty comes in seeing the bias of us as caregivers, myself certainly not excluded, that affects our attitudes, which subsequently affects decisions made at the bedside — sometimes not for the better of the patient, which is why we see litigation.
Professionals make unintended mistakes but it’s how we accept responsibility and address the problem that truly reveals our professional character and earns the trust of our communities as well as other professionals and professions. We must protect and honor that.

Q: Do you use or are you interested in subcontracting?
A: Yes, I have begun to recruit subcontractors. It is the other path besides technology that will create true growth for my company.

Q: What are the top three things you like most about being an LNC?
A: Entrepreneurial freedom, serving the vision of Southern Cross Mediation & Legal Nurse Consulting, seeing the results of faithfully sticking to the vision and philosophy in case outcomes, client relationships and community service, and influencing our professional value and expanding our influence throughout the healthcare community.

Q: How often do you market your LNC services?
A: Not often; I have a referral-based business.

Q: What is your biggest marketing challenge?
A: Time, money and discerning what is or isn’t most effective.

Q: What marketing tools do you use?
A: I am currently looking at multimedia-based options.

Q: What do you think is the biggest reason you continue to receive cases?
A: The strong transfer of knowledge that prepares my clients to represent the case in front of them.

Q: Where do you see yourself as an LNC in 5 years?
A: With a legal nurse consulting firm that is the go-to firm for expertise, relationship and service.

Q: Have you given any presentations?
A: Yes, “Reflections of a Newbie” in the fall of 2007, and I am presenting to a regional RN group in Winston-Salem on the aspects of practice within the LNC profession.

Q: Give three areas of interest other than legal nurse consulting.
A: Mediation, legal nursing’s influence on patient outcomes, improvement and organizational performance and global health for women and children.

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