Forensic nurses are medical professionals trained to provide care the same as registered nurses in general. However, it is also part of their job to gather evidence of criminal activity where appropriate.
Background Needed to Be a Forensic Nurse
Almost all forensic nurses are first registered nurses. Becoming a registered nurse requires a master’s, bachelor’s, or associate’s degree in nursing, or completion of a diploma program through a hospital. Then one must pass a national licensing examination called the NCLEX-RN exam.
To then become a forensic nurse requires obtaining additional training, which usually means graduate level work in forensics. Most forensic nursing jobs then require certification, which can be obtained through the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?
Forensic nursing takes many forms. Many forensic nurses work in hospitals and clinics. In addition to their standard nursing, they examine suspicious cases that may have arisen from criminal activity, such as women who arrive at the emergency room looking like they may have been victims of domestic abuse.
Some forensic nurses work as sexual assault nurse examiners specifically. They take testimony and physical evidence such as semen from rape victims.
Forensic nurses sometimes work in coroner’s offices or for law enforcement or other government agencies. They gather evidence from dead bodies following crimes or disasters.
A forensic nurse needs to be knowledgeable about preserving a legally valid chain of evidence, and to be meticulous in adhering to the proper procedures for doing so. A forensic nurse needs also to be prepared to testify in court as needed.
In general, a forensic nurse balances medical care with law enforcement investigation.
Career Prospects for a Forensic Nurse
Forensic nursing is an uncertain field for now. It is still quite new, with many hospitals not yet employing any forensic nurses, so there aren’t a lot of jobs in this specialty as of yet. On the other hand, precisely because it’s new and growing, it may catch on in a big way soon, causing the demand for qualified forensic nurses to shoot up.
Pay for forensic nursing varies a great deal based on location, years of experience, and education. Expect to start in the neighborhood of $25 an hour, but eventually some forensic nurses make $100 an hour or more. In general, the pay will be somewhat higher than what a registered nurse makes for standard nursing, as the position requires additional training and certification beyond that of an RN.
Susan Wessling, “The Case for Forensic Nursing.” Minority Nurse.
“So You Want to Be a Forensic Scientist!” American Academy of Forensic Scientists.
“What is a Forensic Nurse?” Wise Geek.
“What is a Forensic Nurse-Definition of Forensic Nursing.” The Forensic Nurse.