Forensic NurseThese days, the world of forensics is more popular than ever, thanks to books and television shows glorifying the careers of often gruff and quirky – yet amiable – crime scene investigators and medical examiners. However, what most readers and viewers may not realize is that this type of career, although rewarding and satisfying, is not as glamorous as the entertainment industry portrays it. In fact, one of the most important professionals in the forensic field is often ignored – the forensic nurse.

Earning a BSN is the recommended level of education for this career. See Programs >>
 

Click on one of the links below for more information:

What is a Forensic Nurse?
What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?
Where Do Forensic Nurses Work?
How Do I Become a Forensic Nurse?

What is a Forensic Nurse?

As the name suggests, a forensic nurse is a type of nurse with special training in the field of forensics, or the practice of using scientific methods to collect evidence for the purpose of solving crimes. Forensic science itself has been around in some form or another for centuries. However, it wasn’t until the 18th century that forensic practices really started to take hold. By the 20th century, forensic science was becoming a widely recognized field and quickly started gaining momentum. Today, forensics has become both a form of entertainment and fascination, yet still remains one of the most instrumental aspects of solving crimes.

Forensic nurses are immersed in the fascinating world of forensic science. Like other nurses, they are required to treat and attend to the needs of injured and ill patients. However, these professionals often have another agenda. They act as liaisons between the medical field and the justice system. For instance, they are trained to look for signs of a crime in patients, and they are entrusted to help gather evidence that may be proof of said crimes.

What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?

As mentioned above, forensic nurses help gather evidence of crimes from their patients, who are often victims.

A forensic nurse’s first role is a healthcare provider. They are often required to assess and treat minor injuries and illnesses in their patients. They may also be required to assist physicians in more complex procedures.

While providing treatment, however, forensic nurses will also look for signs of “foul play”. For example, consider the forensic nurse treating the woman who supposedly ran into a door and broke her nose. Despite the fact that she was brought in by a seemingly worried and caring husband, the nurse can’t help but notice that the woman is unusually jumpy around him. Upon closer examination after the husband is asked the room, the forensic nurse finds multiple bruises on various parts of her body. These bruises, combined with the wariness toward the husband, may lead the forensic nurse to believe that the woman is not merely an accident prone woman, but a victim of spousal abuse.

A forensic nurse is also often in charge of collecting evidence in the event of a possible crime. In the case stated above, the nurse may take pictures of the bruises and record her observation of the attitude of the wife toward her husband. Forensic nurses may also be responsible for collecting evidence of sexual assault, assault, battery, neglect, and a dozen other disturbing crimes.

Forensic nurses are also often called upon to deliver expert testimony during criminal trials as well. There, they can give their expert opinion and explain medical terminology and evidence to the jury in laymen’s terms.

Where Do Forensic Nurses Work?

As one would expect, forensic nurses work in medical settings. However, the majority of these types of nurses work in settings with a higher percentage of the patients are victims of crimes, namely emergency rooms and urgent care centers.

Working in an emergency healthcare setting is often stressful work, and a forensic nurse must always be on her toes. It often involves working long hours and swing shifts. Witnessing the constant parade of victims of heinous crimes does nothing more but increase the stress factor. However, at the end of the day – when yet another bad guy is put away – it is also very rewarding and satisfying work.

How Do I Become a Forensic Nurse?

Becoming a forensic nurse is not always as straightforward as becoming a traditional nurse. This is partly due to the fact that this is a relatively newer area of the nursing field, and not all employers have discovered the advantages of having forensic nurses on staff. If your goal is to become a forensic nurse, you have a couple different options.

First, you can complete nursing school and become a registered nurse by sitting for the National Counsel Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLE-RN). You can then take continuing education courses, comprised of both classroom and clinical training, which are offered at colleges, online, or at some healthcare facilities. You can also choose to enroll in a school that offers a Forensic Nursing master’s degree program.

Below is the common educational path for a Forensic Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

To become certified, you can then take a certification exam such as the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) certification exam offered by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).

Additional Forensic Nurse Resources

  1. American Forensic Nurse Association
  2. Academy of Forensic Nurse Science
  3. International Forensic Nursing Association
  4. Forensic Nursing Journals