Finding my unique role in caring for nurses
Nurse attorney supports her colleagues by providing legal representation
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EDITOR'S NOTE: Nancy J. Brent, MS, JD, RN, Nurse.com's legal information columnist, received her Juris Doctor from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and concentrates her solo law practice in health law and legal representation, consultation and education for healthcare professionals, school of nursing faculty and healthcare delivery facilities.
Caring for others as a nurse was a wonderful gift that reaped me countless rewards. And as a nurse attorney, I found that I could care for nurses in a unique way.
Throughout your career, you will face decisions about your professional development and your career goals. I faced these decisions years ago and decided to use my nursing background and education to practice law. I had hoped to work with individuals whose mental health needs required legal representation, but that did not happen.
Instead, after several years of practicing in more traditional legal roles, I began working with nurses who needed legal representation due to violations of their respective nurse practice acts. It turned out this unique path of caring for others has been a worthwhile and satisfying experience for me.
New-Nancy-Brent
By Nancy J. Brent
MS, JD, RN
My new career allowed me to use many of the competencies I obtained while practicing nursing. As an example, my academic faculty experiences helped me to work with nursing faculty who had legal problems. My past faculty positions also allowed me to provide educational programs to nurses across the country to help them learn more about the law.
When such a change of professional roles takes place, it can be daunting, and it was for me. One development that took place shortly after I graduated from law school, though, was encouraging for me as I began my new role as a nurse attorney.
I received a notice that a professional association for nurse attorneys or nurses who were in law school was being proposed by the late Cynthia Ellen Northrop, a bachelor’s degree prepared nurse with a law degree. Around the same time, nurse attorneys in other parts of the country were attempting the same thing.
It was exciting to know that there were other nurse attorneys who had similar backgrounds to mine. The initial focus of the groups was more social in nature: to communicate with each other and identify potential members. Nurse attorneys grouped in various regions of the country began to meet, and a network developed.
How to make a career switch
Embrace change to move forward
In 1982, The American Association of Nurse Attorneys became incorporated and a board of directors and officers were elected. Today, there are 15 local chapters of TAANA, whose mission includes providing resources, education and leadership to its members and the healthcare and legal communities. TAANA members function in many roles, including as litigators, defense attorneys, legal counsel for healthcare delivery systems and in private law practices.
Whatever changes you might make in your role, it is important to seek out and obtain the support and camaraderie of your colleagues. Joining a professional association and becoming an active member in whatever capacity you choose can make a world of difference to you. Not only can you thrive professionally, but you can meet new colleagues, establish friendships and further expand your knowledge of what is happening.

Clearly, nursing demands a lot from you and you give to it all you can. However, balance and professional fulfillment is essential, and you deserve to experience both. Happy Nurses Week!
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