Want to Advance in Health Care? Consider a Master of Legal Studies.

The world of health care is becoming increasingly complex. With advances in technology and an ever-changing regulatory landscape, health-care professionals are challenged with an array of evolving legal issues. In such an atmosphere, it can be beneficial for health-care professionals to add legal knowledge and expertise to their skillsets, and getting a graduate legal education is an excellent way to do it. These degrees may be referred to in various ways, such as Master of Legal Studies, Master of Judicial Studies, or Master of Studies in Law. Regardless of the nomenclature, there are tangible benefits attached to seeking a graduate legal education beyond a J.D., and we’ll cover some of them here.

How the Law Interacts With Health Care

No matter what your title may be, when it comes to caring for patients in any context, health care and the law go hand-in-hand. This has long been true for those involved in direct patient care, such as physiciansnurses and allied health professionals. As health care grows increasingly complex because of technology and regulatory changes related to the Affordable Care Act , those involved in leading health-care systems interact with legal issues more frequently. A recent Bloomberg BNA report highlights current issues that include “the implications of continuing provider realignment, stepped-up fraud and abuse enforcement, health information technology adoption, frequent data breaches, and telemedicine growth.”

While such issues broadly reflect the benefit for health-care professionals to add legal expertise to their resumes, the most powerful examples may be found in day-to-day experiences. Many instances involve both legal and ethical issues, such as practices related to abortion, discontinuing life support, relationships with patients, malpractice, consent and patient privacy. Most are significantly affected by regulations related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the greatly expanded use of electronic medical records (EMR).

Possessing a fundamental knowledge of the U.S. legal system provides a significant advantage for health-care professionals who are required to address these types of issues in a variety of contexts. To meet this need, a graduate legal curriculum should include training and education related to skills such as working with contracts, understanding legal writing, optimizing business associations, understanding intellectual property issues, conducting business negotiations and transacting business internationally.

Advancing Your Health Care Career

There are a variety of jobs in health care that either require or could be enhanced by a legal background with a Master of Legal Studies, and here are just a few:

TitleAnnual Salary RangeAnnual Median Salary
Chief Compliance Officer
Chief Executive Officer
Director of Nursing
Chief Privacy Officer
Medical Director
Chief Information Officer
Clinical Nurse Manager
Chief Financial Officer
Scientific Researcher
Physician (Internal Medicine)
Laboratory Director
Social Services Director
Physical Therapy Director
Pharmacy Director
Human Resources Director
Source: Payscale.com

Zackery Demur, a current Master of Legal Studies student in the @WashULaw program, says he immediately applies what he is learning to his job as a surgical specialty adviser for Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, Georgia. The coursework on employment law and contracts is particularly relevant for him.

“The original reason I applied to the program was because of the new regulations being placed on my field. When I first started, there were no real guidelines. However, with recent changes in the way Medicare and Medicaid reimburse based on performance goals, more standardization and accountability was required,” he says. “The ever-changing world of bioethics, the shortage of a skilled workforce, and the accountability of working for a government agency all brought about the need for a greater understanding of U.S. law.”

No matter what type of health-care professional you may be, the complexity of today’s health-care landscape means that you face a wide variety of evolving legal issues. With a Master of Legal Studies added to your resume, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them and to advance your career.