Forensic nursing is a rapidly growing sector of the nursing industry. With the right experience and training, you could use your skills to help law enforcement and victims of crime. After earning your undergraduate nursing degree, you can check out forensic nursing schools.
On this page, learn more about the field of forensic nursing and how to get involved. You’ll discover what forensic nurses do, their average income and what kind of training they get. Get more info on forensic nursing programs near you with our search box above. Explore featured forensic nursing schools below and contact programs for more information.
You can also explore which nursing specialty is right for you with our Nursing Specialties Quiz that matches your personality to your nursing career!
Forensic Nursing Job Description
Your experience working with patients serves you well in the field of forensic nursing. However, this role takes you far beyond standard nursing tasks. Forensic nurses work with patients who have been the victim of a crime. They may also work with perpetrators.
After a crime has been committed, forensic nurses jump into action. They treat the injuries of a victim and provide emotional support for the trauma they’ve experienced. While offering treatment, nurses collect evidence and preserve it carefully. Patient assessment is key at this stage.
Forensic nurses get a lot of training in psychology and trauma. They may assess the victims’ mental state to determine which further services are needed. Before a victim leaves, the forensic nurse might provide referrals for counseling or therapy.
Forensic nursing professionals should be ready to take their knowledge to the courtroom. They are often called as witnesses in criminal cases. On the stand, you may have to testify about a victim’s injuries, their psychological state and possible causes of injuries. You may also testify about the evidence collected from the patient during treatment.
Forensic Nursing Jobs
- Forensic nurse examiner: This is a broad job title that covers the most common job duties of forensic nursing professionals. In this role, plan on collecting evidence, treating victims and providing testimony.
- Sexual assault nurse examiner: SANEs work specifically with victims of sexual assault. They follow strict procedures and treatment protocols. They conduct extensive physical exams to gather evidence, provide protection against STDs and guard against pregnancy.
- Forensic nurse death investigator: This role is a highly specialized area of forensic nursing. Forensic nurse death investigators work alongside coroners to conduct postmortem investigations. Your work may include determining the cause of death, gathering relevant evidence and writing reports for law enforcement.
- Legal nurse consultant: Legal nurse consultants bridge the gap between the legal industry and the healthcare industry. They often examine evidence and medical documentation to provide expert testimony in legal cases.
- Forensic correctional nurse: Forensic correctional nurses work in jails and prisons. They provide high-quality treatment to inmates. They provide everything from substance abuse treatment and preventive care to treatment for chronic diseases.
Forensic Nursing Salary
Demand for nursing professionals is on the rise across the country. Job openings for all registered nurses are expected to jump 15% between 2016 and 2026 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). Forensic nurses may find that their job outlook is stronger in urban areas. Smaller municipalities do not always have the necessary funding for forensic nursing staff, so they may send crime victims to hospitals in larger cities.
The salary you earn depends on how much experience you have in forensic nursing, which law enforcement agency you’re employed through and which services you provide. Currently, the average salary for a registered nurse is $68,450 per year in the United States (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2017). You may earn more if you have forensic nursing certification.
Forensic Nursing Schools
To become a forensic nurse, you must already be a registered nurse and have a nursing license in your state. You may enter some forensic nursing roles with an associate degree and specialized training. However, many programs require that you have a BSN.
If you want to become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, you could finish your training in a matter of weeks. Many hospitals and sexual assault support centers offer a 40-hour training course. You may use this training to become certified through the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
For a broader education that covers all areas of forensic nursing, consider a certificate program. These programs are designed for BSN or MSN graduates. Both options last about one year. In a BSN certificate program, you may build on your standard registered nursing skills. In a post-MSN program, you may prepare for advanced practice in the field of forensic nursing.
Graduate forensic nursing programs are another option. Over a period of two years, you may earn a master’s degree in forensic nursing. While taking core advanced nursing courses, you also enroll in specialized forensic classes.
Forensic Nursing Curriculum
In a graduate forensic nursing program, plan on earning between 30 and 45 credits. Full-time students may finish in as little as two years. Those who work full-time while studying may graduate in four years as part-time students.
Many of the classes you take develop your ability to work in specialized care settings and situations.
The courses below are commonly required in forensic nursing programs.
- Theory Development in Nursing
- Crisis Theory in Forensic Nursing
- Forensic Methodologies
- Nursing Research
- Psychological, Social and Legal Aspects of Forensics
- Sociology of Crime and Delinquency
- Foundations of Forensic Nursing
In most graduate programs, you must complete at least 300 clinical hours. Working with crime victims is very different from working with typical patients. Getting supervised experience at the student level may help you avoid common missteps and treat patients with empathy. Supervised work experience also helps you develop your evidence collection skills, allowing you to avoid errors that lead to contaminated and unusable evidence.
Examine your school’s learning outcomes before beginning your forensic nursing education. This shows you what skills you’re expected to develop by the time you graduate. Your training may cover how to interact with other healthcare professionals and criminal justice professionals in an effective manner. You should also learn how to recognize signs of abuse in how patients act and which injuries they have. Some courses cover how to use expert witness skills in an ethical and legal manner in the courtroom.
Becoming a forensic nurse allows you to combine your passion for nursing and your interest in criminal justice. Contact forensic nursing programs today to start preparing for the next stage of your career.