Struggling between the decisions of whether to work in law enforcement or nursing? You don’t have to. With a forensic nurse education, you can combine the two fields and become a successful and much-needed medical professional.
What is Forensic Nursing?
When many individuals think about forensic nursing, they aren’t quite sure what this area of the medical field actually is. Television shows like “Bones” and “CSI” lead them to believe that a forensic nurse is a medical detective who investigates dead bodies at a crime scene.
In reality, this area of nursing is much more complicated. A forensic nurse is an individual who has received specialized training in criminal procedures, forensic evidence collection, medical training, and legal testimony expertise.
The combination of nursing, investigative prowess, and legal training allows these nurses to function as a liaison between the criminal justice system and medical profession.
Forensic Nurse Job Description
The majority of forensic nurses work in emergency rooms in hospitals. This area of the hospital is full of patients who need the help of a forensic nurse, but generally don’t know they do. In this environment, they are responsible for not only completing the regular medical duties of a nurse, but determining if anything criminal has occurred as well.
They may investigate signs of abuse, determine whether patients are telling the truth about their injuries, and treating and obtaining crucial evidence, like DNA, from victims that have suffered sexual assaults.
Forensic nurses may also assist the police in investigating deaths, even if they are not related to a crime. They might investigate suicides, accidents, and homicides, collecting evidence to support the cause of death as they do so. They can also work as Medicolegal Death Investigators.
As MDIs, they generally are assigned to work in areas outside criminal investigation. For instance, they may be called to identify remains after a natural disaster through forensic evidence collection.
Some of these nurses obtain forensic nursing jobs that focus their skills on helping the public, working on cases that concern the public’s overall health and safety. This may involve investigating environmental hazards, drug abuse, epidemiology, and food tampering.
Forensic Nursing Salary Breakdown
According to Indeed.com, a forensic nurse can expect to earn an average of $60,000 a year. However, the actual salary they receive will depend on the area of health care and criminal investigation they choose.
For instance, if the nurse works solely as a sexual assault forensic examiner, they can expect to earn $18,000 more every year than the national average.
How to Become a Forensic Nurse
Want to become a forensic nurse? If you are a critical thinker, are compassionate, emotionally stable, and pay attention to details, this step-by-step guide will help you achieve your dreams.
- Bachelor’s Degree – The first step you will have to take to become a forensic nurse is to obtain your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing , or BSN. This includes not only classroom studies, but clinical lab experience, and rotations that will expose you to the various specialities available in the medical field.
- NCLEX – After you obtain your bachelor’s degree, you must take and pass the NCLEX, or the National Council Licensure Examination. This will allow you to obtain the RN, registered nurse, designation.
- Postgraduate Training – There are two options for obtaining your forensic nurse training after becoming an RN. You can either obtain a certificate in forensic nursing, which involves a short period of training only lasting a few semesters, or you can attend forensic nursing programs and obtain your Master’s of Science in Nursing. A master’s degree takes two years to complete, but provides you with much more information and understanding of this area of health care.
When you have obtained your forensic nursing degree, you can then obtain credentials, if you wish, as a forensic nurse specialist. This is not required by any state, but is offers by the IAFN and may assist you in obtaining employment quickly as a forensic nurse.