A forensic nurse needs to be a registered nurse to start with. Then they take extra coursework from a forensic science school that has forensic nursing. The courses they take, according to an article about forensic nursing programs on Ampulse.com, forensic nursing programs, include perpetrator theory, victimology, criminology, interpersonal violence, criminal justice, mental health studies and basic legal procedures to name a few. Universities started forensic nursing programs in 1976 to “maintain and collect quality evidence from perpetrators and victims”.
More than 1800 schools offer a forensic nursing program in the U.S. and the numbers of graduates are increasing. There are now 314,000 professionals working in the U.S. The forensic nurse is the link between healthcare professionals (such as physicians and staff nurses) to law enforcement. They work with both criminal and civil investigations. Salaries for a forensic nurse varies by location and experience but ranges from $44,000/year to $140,000/year.
A forensic nurse gathers sensitive material both by a physical exam and also by a careful history review. They provide care to all ages including the very young to the elderly. They also provide care and help with the emotional recoveries as well as the physical. Sometimes, they need to review the marks on a body to try to determine the type of injury and what possible crime could have been committed.
Certificates in forensic nursing are offered online at a few major universities. The special designation of Sexual Assault Examiner can also be obtained online. Online courses should be taken only by those that can work alone and without distractions for hours at a time so the study time can be optimized.
A forensic nurse typically works in a hospital, primarily in the emergency room. They may, however, also work in corrections departments and jails. Some are hired as consultants for insurance companies and law enforcement agencies. They frequently are called on to give testimony in criminal and civil cases as the information they collect is crucial to the cases.
Being asked to give expert testimony is not new for a registered nurse. However, a forensic nurse would be called on to give more specifics and even some speculation, based on their added training, as to how injuries could have occurred. Other information may be asked about also from the examination such as conversations they had that may not have gotten written down in the medical record.
If you are a registered nurse and would like to further your education in a growing field, you should look into forensic nursing. You never know when you could solve the big case!