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The Role of the Nurse Life Care Planner

Posted Feb 22 2010 12:00am

A critical aspect of any catastrophic injury lawsuit involves the determination of the injured party’s future medical care. The life care plan is a tool that is written by a professional and often used to specifically identify all of the future care (medical and non-medical) needs of the injured party. The life care plan addresses the costs and frequency of the needed goods and services over a lifetime. It will project the needed equipment, replacement scheduled and maintenance.

In many cases attendant care is needed. The plan will determine how many hours per day care is anticipated and what level of individual is needed to provide the care. Some care may be provided by unskilled labor while other care requires expertise of a licensed individual. Still other care could be calculated to provide respite for the family care givers.

Another large area in injury cases (and particularly those cases which involve children) are the calculations the therapy needs. Therapy needs may consist of physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, and recreational therapy and may last a lifetime.

A life care plan will also address the number of physician visits required throughout the injured party’s life, any adaptive equipment he or she may require in and around the home, home modifications, transportation needs, diagnostic testing, and often much more. It is common for the nurse life care planner to meet with the injured party’s family in their home to assess the extent of the needs. The plan is a collaborative effort that involves the life care planner as well as the multiple medical professionals involved in the medical care.

Nurses are well suited to this field of life care planning. Beginning in nursing school, nurses learned how to develop a nursing care plan. This same nursing care plan is the essence of Nurse Life Care Planning. The Nurse Life Care Planner initiates the nursing process with a nursing assessment and using a holistic approach to encompass the client, their support system, their environment, and their individual needs related to the injury or illness.

The nursing assessment is based on collecting subjective and objective data from observations, examinations, interviews and written records. The data may include symptoms, growth and development, family health history, information collected by other health team members, culture and religion, ability to perform activities of daily living, educational and vocational background, patterns of coping and interacting, and environmental factors. The Nurse Life Care Plan is intended to follow the client through his or her lifetime to ensure funds will be available to properly care for the client.

Nurse Life Care Planning is an extension of case management where the nurse has learned to perform an assessment, formulate a plan of care in collaboration with the health care team, facilitate medical needs and negotiate costs related to care. Other specialties of nursing that are also well suited to this area include rehabilitation, discharge planning, utilization review nurses and even home health nurses.

The American Association of Nurse Life Care Planners (AANLCP) was established to promote a professional practice within nurse life care planning. To learn more about this exciting field of nursing, I encourage you to contact the association and consider becoming a member.

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