Medical paralegals help lawyers obtain information and prepare cases related to medical issues, such as malpractice suits and personal injury claims. They investigate claims by interviewing patients and doctors and reviewing hospital forms, bills, and statements. In order to prepare for the duties of the job, a person who wants to become a medical paralegal usually needs to receive training and experience in both health care and legal settings. Most paralegals enter the profession after working in medical settings and earning paralegal credentials from community colleges or technical schools. Depending on the region and setting in which a professional wants to work, he or she may also need to pass a certification exam administered by a professional organization.
In order to become a medical paralegal, a person typically needs to be very familiar with health care regulations and common medical services. A legal assistant who understands the basics of nursing, medical billing, and insurance dealings will usually have a much easier time uncovering facts and interpreting technical information. In fact, many practicing medical paralegals have extensive previous experience working as nurses, hospital aides, physician assistants, or medical coders. Their knowledge is often indispensable to putting together accurate, thorough cases for attorneys.
An experienced health-care professional who wants to become a medical paralegal can conduct Internet research and contact potential employers to learn about specific regional requirements. In most cases, a person needs to earn a degree or certificate in paralegal studies. Many community colleges, vocational schools, and online institutions offer paralegal programs that can take anywhere from three months to two years to complete. It is important for a person who wants to become a medical paralegal to make sure a program is fully accredited by the appropriate regional or national governing board to ensure that he or she will earn relevant credentials.
A paralegal student receives detailed instruction from teachers in a number of different subjects. He or she takes courses in law terminology, legal research, statistics, and computer science, among other related topics. Some programs offer internship opportunities for hopeful paralegals to provide them with important practical experience in the field.
After earning a degree or certificate, a graduate can apply for entry-level positions at private law firms and government agencies. New professionals typically work as assistants to other paralegals for several weeks or months to become familiar with the specific responsibilities of the job. After gaining experience, an individual may need to take a certification test to officially become a medical paralegal and earn the right to begin working unsupervised.