Forensic Nurse: Education and Career Information
The world of forensic nursing can be an exciting, yet challenging career path. This position is fairly new to the nursing profession, being introduced in the 90’s. Although nurses have extensive knowledge in the caring of patients, the forensic nurse requires enormous attention to detail and is considered a specialist in the field. The basis of being a forensic nurse relies on the licensing and education of an RN, but has additional standards that must be met to be successful. As a forensic nurse, you will be able to delve deeper into the world of crime victimization and have first-hand access to crime scenes which help determine motive, causes of certain crimes and the suspects who may be responsible.
What a forensic nurse does
A forensic nurse is able to work within a broad range of fields and activities and is usually an integral part of the crime unit. Forensic nurses are trained in criminal justice and medicine, assisting in the treatment and investigation of accidental death, sexual and physical assault crimes. Depending on their role, they help live victims by collecting data to help convict criminals, can work as a consultant in a number of medical facilities, and are specialists in the collection and examination of evidence. Forensic nurses are often called as an expert medical witness during court proceedings. This is a highly structured, fast-paced position that requires a lot of research. There are a number of specialties available:
•Forensic Clinical Nurse: These nurses are highly educated and usually hold an advanced degree such as a master’s or doctoral degree. They are regarded as experts, consultants, administrators and teachers in the forensic field.
•Forensic Gerontology: These nurses assist in investigating cases involving elder abuse and neglect, usually working in facilities geared toward the care and maintenance of older persons.
•Forensic Nurse Investigator: If there is a violent or unexpected death, these nurses are first on the scene. They usually work with the coroner and special crimes unit to examine, collect information and perform autopsies on corpses to help solve the case.
•Correctional Nursing: These nurses work directly in correctional facilities to examine and monitor offenders currently incarcerated.
•Forensic Psychiatry: These nurses specialize in working with criminals who have social, behavioral and psychological disorders. They provide care, supervise and treat offenders and can work as a consultant in the courtroom for criminal defenses.
•Legal Nurse Consultant: These nurses work with attorneys to assist in a number of medically-related cases such as malpractice, worker’s compensation and personal injury. They dissect and evaluate all the information related to the case to advise the attorney.
•Death Investigator: These nurses help analyze the crime scene and examine the body. They are able to call time of death and work with the coroner to locate information to determine cause of death.
•Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner: Works with abused and rape victims. These nurses evaluate the patient, collect and package evidence, and helps with the victim’s care. They are ready and able to serve as an expert witness in these cases.
•Pediatric Forensics: Works with children and adolescents
How much do forensic nurses earn?
All forensic nurses follow the standard nursing path to acquire the Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) degree and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become a registered nurse. Average starting salaries for nurses are $57,000, but location is also a factor. As you pursue the path of forensic nursing, your advanced education, expertise and experience will play a major part in determining your salary. The annual average salary of a forensic nurse falls between $42,574 and $112,441.
What type of skills are required to be successful in this career field?
Beyond the skills learned in nursing school, you must have a certain level of compassion and empathy for victims you will deal with. You must have a high level of communication skills and the ability to speak clearly and effectively. Here are a few other skills needed for this career path:
•Collection, Packaging and Storing of Evidence
•Eye for detail
•Ability to deal with a diverse group of people
Standard BSN requirements include clinical, which can be viewed as a form of internship within the program. Depending on the specialty, there are other internships that must be completed according to pre-licensure standards.
As part of a number of programs to obtain the Forensic Nursing certificate, both clinical and non-clinical internships are required after the didactic portion of the courses. The clinical internship includes observations and supervised practice in medical forensic evaluation, collection of evidence, documentation, chart and peer review. The non-clinical internship portion includes an observation of operations in the law enforcement field, case management procedures from a prosecuting agency such as the State Attorneys’ office, criminal court proceedings, a crime lab tour and participation in a sexual assault victim advocacy program.
There are a number of educational requirements you must complete prior to becoming a forensic nurse. The first is completing a Bachelor of Nursing (BSN) program from an accredited school and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. The next step would be to become certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse (SANE), which requires passing the SANE exam. There are two certifications available:
•SANE-A: For forensic nurses working with adults
•SANE-P: For forensic nurses working with pediatrics
There are a number of programs specifically designed for the forensic nurse profession, which awards a Certificate in Forensic Nursing. After receiving the certification, there are a number of continuing education courses available to maintain your designation. Some of these specialized courses include:
•Chain of Custody
•Forensic Wound Recognition
•Documentation and Communication
•Evidence collection in the Emergency Department
•Forensic Evidence Collection in the Clinical Setting
•Pediatric Sexual Assault
•Forensic Nurse Examiner
•Court Preparation and Testimony
There are a number of forensic nursing organizations to help assist in obtaining the necessary education and certifications needed to excel in this career path. As with any medical designation, you must keep up with new regulations and requirements in the field. Two organizations that specialize in providing continuing education are the American Forensic Nurses, which is a continuing education provider to help the advancement of education in forensic science; the American Institute of Forensic Education (AIFE), which offers forensic science distance learning training programs for professionals working the field.
If crime scene investigations and solving mysteries intrigue you, this may be the right career path to pursue. You will have many different scenarios based on the type of cases you deal with, and can be an integral part of helping bring criminals to justice.
Several nursing programs are available at the bachelor's, post-graduate, master's, and doctoral levels.
- Nursing (BS)
A degree from CTU connects you to what matters most: powerful professional network, real-world professional faculty and innovative technology. Once you earn your degree you hit the ground running.
- Master of Science in Nursing - Nursing Administration
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN completion)
- Master of Science in Nursing - Nursing Education
Grand Canyon University - College of Nursing & Health Care Professions. Online & Campus - Bachelor's and Master's Degrees!
- B.S. in Nursing (Registered Nurse - R.N. to B.S.N)
- M.S. in Nursing: Health Care Informatics (Bridge)
- M.S. in Nursing: Public Health (Bridge)
- And more...
Kaplan University is focused on recognizing the achievements of military and veteran students and offers the flexibility of an online education.
- MS in Nursing
- Master of Science - DNP Path (Doctor of Nursing Practice)
- Master of Science in Nursing-Family Nurse Practitioner
- And more...
Liberty University provides a world-class education with a solid Christian foundation, equipping men and women with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for success in every aspect of life.
- Master of Science in Nursing: Nursing Administration
- Master of Science in Nursing: Nurse Educator
- BS in Nursing (RN to BSN)
Start a great career in healthcare with Medical Careers Institute.
- Nursing (RN-BSN) - Bachelor's
- Nursing (RN) - Associate's
- Practical Nursing - Diploma
- And more...
At Fortis Institute, you may get the skills and training you need to prepare for a career.
* Programs vary by location
* Please contact each individual campus for accreditation information
- Associate Degree in Nursing
- Practical Nursing
- Medical Assistant
As a student at South University, you will have the opportunity to learn from accomplished faculty members who have real-world experience in the subjects that they teach. Our small class sizes allow you to receive personalized attention from instructors, and the encouragement to recognize your goals for the future and the means to achieve them.
- Nursing (BS)
Give your career a boost with an education from Southern New Hampshire University.
- MS Nursing
- MS Nursing: Patient Safety and Quality
- MS Nursing: Clinical Nurse Leader
- And more...
Technology changes everything®
You’ve found Ashford University, where school comes to you
- BS/Nursing (RN to BSN)
Centura College, with campus locations in Virginia, South Carolina and Florida.
- Practical Nursing Diploma
- Associate of Occupational Science Degree in Medical Assisting-Clinical Concentration
Earn your graduate degree online with Northcentral University.
- Doctor of Education - Nursing Education
For over 35 years, Keiser University has maintained a practical, hands-on approach to career education to help our students achieve their personal and professional goals.
- Master of Science in Nursing
Study online with California University of Pennsylvania.
- RN-BSN (Bachelor of Science) - Online
- Dual Degree: MSN-MBA (MSN-MBA) - Online
- MSN Nursing Administration & Leadership (Master of Science) - Online
Miller-Motte Technical College (MMTC) can help get you from here to a new career!
- Medical Assisting - Associate of Occupational Science