Earlier in 2020, I put away my scrubs for the last time, shutting the door on my career as a nurse and midwife to start my new role as a lawyer. As the months have rolled on, one of the biggest things I have noticed is just how many similarities there are between nurses and personal injury lawyers.
I thought I’d share with you, three of the things that these professions have in common.
1. They are both advocates
Nurses are really good at advocating for their patients. Whether it is suggesting that a medical practitioner may want to look a little more closely at the wound the patient failed to mention or referring a homeless patient to an outreach service.
Often nurses can pick up on what a patient needs before they even know themselves. Nurses are also really good at making sure a patient’s treatment wishes are honoured even if they disagree with them on a personal level.
Personal injury lawyers are amazing advocates too. My advocating skills look a little different these days. Most of it is done through written submissions making sure that I can put the best argument forward for my client.
Although most of it is done through paperwork, it is no less valuable. Personal injury lawyers learn how to champion what matters most to the client and present that to the other parties involved.
I wish more people knew just how much time and emotion can go into drafting a document! Blood, sweat and often a few tears goes into those pages.
2. They can both talk to anyone about anything
I can’t help but laugh when I think about some of the conversations I have had nursing over the years. As a nurse, you have to be able to talk to people that you would usually never come in contact with during some of the most stressful times in their lives.
You learn to extract the information you need to make an assessment. You also need to know how to explain medical terms in a way that the patient understands.
Nurses know how use blown up rubber gloves to make rosters and use them to entice a child to talk to them. They know how to calm or relax someone when they are becoming more and more elevated or agitated after receiving bad news. Nurses can ask about embarrassing ailments and not bat an eyelid. They are masters of conversation.
Personal injuries lawyers are also skilled talkers although I am yet to see one make a roster from a rubber glove in my current role.
I have watched my personal injury colleagues navigate conversations with people from all different walks of life and extract the information with need. You don’t know who is going to be on the other end of a call and it is the lawyer’s job to make the client feel comfortable. They are translators (of legal jargon into English) and explain legal terms in language that the person they are speaking with, can understand.
Whether you are talking about needing to take blood as a nurse or the outcome of an expert opinion as a lawyer, you always need to be ready to chat and put the other person at ease regarding what has occurred or what is to come.
3. They both have to be really good at deciphering handwriting
OK, this may seem like a silly one but stick with me!
I do not know how many times as a nurse I would call my colleagues over and we would all stare at a line on a page questioning what on earth was written there. We would try screwing up our eyes and putting our faces really close to the page in an attempt to have the words clarify themselves.
The next step would be to go to a doctor and ask them what the unknown line of text might say, hoping that they would have some secret insight into what it could be. Then the whole process of staring and squinting would begin again.
The funny thing is that I am still doing exactly the same thing as a personal injury lawyer. Now I drag my computer over to unsuspecting work colleagues and beg them to look at the squiggles on the screen with me. I zoom in. I zoom out. I pull faces at the screen hoping it will help.
We all stare at the words and still often are unable to figure out what on earth the practitioner has written. The good thing now is that as a personal injury lawyer, I can now just write that the handwriting is “illegible” rather than having to call a grumpy practitioner and beg for answers.
What are the benefits of having a personal injury lawyer who is a trained nurse?
My understanding of the injuries and conditions my clients suffer from is informed by my medical background.
I know the meaning of the medical shorthand without having to Google it or consult a friendly doctor. I am often able to read between the lines of the clinical notes and anticipate the future treatment my clients we require. I also bring an intimate understanding of what they have been through in the medical system.
About the author
My name is Ariella Stephenson and I am a personal injury lawyer at Polaris Lawyers Melbourne. I work with Nick Mann, Rikki Stanley and Becky Bass on a wide variety of cases involving medical negligence, injuries that have occurred in public places and transport accident cases.
I grew up in Tasmania which has led me to have a great love of the outdoors. When I’m not at work you can find me riding my bicycle and adventuring in nature. I adore books and love cooking for my friends and family.