How to Become a Forensic Nurse

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Mar 22, 2023
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If you’re considering getting into an exciting nursing field, you’ll want to know how to become a forensic nurse.

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  1. What is a forensic nurse?
  2. What does a forensic nurse do?
  3. Forensic Nurse Salary
  4. 6 Steps to Become a Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses play an essential role in the healthcare and criminal justice systems. Their work involves a unique combination of nursing skills, forensic science, and legal knowledge, and they strive to provide compassionate care and support to victims of crimes.

Forensic nursing is a specialized field that combines nursing, forensic science, and the law.

Becoming a forensic nurse requires nursing education, experience, specialized training, and certification. It can be a challenging but rewarding career path for nursing students interested in making a difference in patients’ lives.

What is a forensic nurse?

A forensic nurse is a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has received specialized training in forensic science, healthcare, and the law.

They work in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, correctional facilities, and medical examiner or coroner’s offices, and are involved in investigating, treating, and preventing injuries and violence.

Forensic nurses use their nursing skills and knowledge to collect and preserve evidence related to crimes, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and child abuse. They work closely with law enforcement, attorneys, and other healthcare professionals to provide expert testimony in court cases.

In addition to providing direct patient care, forensic nurses also work to prevent violence and promote public health through community outreach, education, and advocacy. They may also work in research, policy development, and program administration related to forensic nursing.

Read to learn more nursing professions and types of nurses.

What does a forensic nurse do?

Forensic nurses work in a variety of settings, and their day-to-day tasks can vary depending on their specific role and responsibilities. However, some common tasks that forensic nurses may perform in their day-to-day work include:

  • Conducting forensic medical exams on victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, or other crimes. They collect evidence, document injuries, and provide medical treatment as needed.
  • Collecting and preserving evidence related to crimes. They may collect samples of bodily fluids, take photographs of injuries, and document the chain of custody of evidence.
  • Providing expert testimony in court cases related to crimes. They may explain medical procedures and terminology to judges and juries and provide expert opinions on the collected evidence.
  • Collaborating with law enforcement and other professionals to provide comprehensive care to victims of crimes. They may attend meetings, provide consultation, and collaborate on investigations.
  • Educating and advocating for victims to help them understand their options and make informed decisions about their care. They may also advocate for victims’ rights and provide referrals to community resources.

Forensic Nurse Salary

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a forensic nurse in the US is $73,786 /year or $35 /hour.

The highest-paying states for forensic nurses include:

  • New York – $81,805/year
  • Idaho – $80,151/year
  • California – $78,404/year
  • New Hampshire – $75,999/year
  • Vermont – $74,910/year

6 Steps to Become a Forensic Nurse

Here are general steps to become a forensic nurse:

1. Obtain a nursing degree.

The first step in becoming a forensic nurse is to obtain a nursing degree. This can be either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Some employers may prefer or require a BSN degree for forensic nursing positions.

2. Pass the NCLEX-RN and obtain RN licensure.

To work as a forensic nurse, you must have a valid RN license, which is a legal requirement to provide healthcare services. RN licensure requires passing the NCLEX-RN exam, which tests your knowledge and skills in nursing practice. 

3. Gain nursing experience.

Most forensic nursing positions require at least two years of nursing experience. This can include experience in areas such as emergency departments, or critical care units.

4. Complete forensic nursing education and training. 

Forensic nurses must complete specialized education and training in forensic nursing. This can include certificate programs, continuing education courses, or advanced practice nursing programs with a forensic focus.

5. Gain experience in forensic nursing. 

After completing education and training, nursing students can gain forensic-specific nursing experience by working in various settings, including hospitals, clinics, correctional facilities, and medical examiner or coroner’s offices.

6. Obtain forensic nursing certification. 

Certification is not always required to work as a forensic nurse, but it can demonstrate expertise in the field and increase job opportunities. 

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) offers different certification options for forensic nurses, including: 

  • Certified Adult/Adolescent sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE-A): This is for specialized care to adult and adolescent patients who have experienced sexual assault. 
  • Certified Pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE-P): Similar to SANE-A, this certification is for specialized care to pediatric patients who have experienced sexual assault.

Get Closer to Your Dream Nursing Career with Less Stress

Becoming a forensic nurse, or any specialty nurse, starts with passing the NCLEX exam

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