A forensic nurse applies nursing science to legal proceedings in investigating death of victims, criminal abuse, traumatic accidents, and treatment of victims of violence and abuse.
As a forensic nurse, you will provide court testimony as an expert witness or may be a consultant in the investigative process. You provide services directly to clients and evaluate whether services previously delivered were adequate.
Forensic nurses may be called on to visit the scene of a crime, identify evidence, and document and photograph injuries. On certain occasions, you may investigate fatal and non-fatal cases of trauma and accidents to identify the cause of death or injury.
Forensic Nurse Requirements
You will need to become a registered nurse (RN) with a degree from an accredited college or university before focusing on the forensic aspects of this career path.
You may choose a career in general forensic nursing or become a forensic nurse who specializes in counseling, pediatrics, criminology, or psychiatry.
Obtaining the RN degree usually requires two to four years of study with two year paths resulting in Associate of Science Degree in Nursing and the four year course provides a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nursing or a Registered Nurse degree.
You must pass a licensure examination to obtain your nursing license and be licensed in the state where you will practice. To become certified as a professional forensic nurse requires a minimum of three years work experience as a RN.
Forensic Nursing Education and Training
As a Registered Nurse you can gain specialty training in your area of interest through forensic nursing courses available at universities, nursing schools, and online colleges.
After you have completed all studies and acquired nursing experience through three or more years of working as an RN, you can apply to become certified as a forensic nurse with the Forensic Nursing Certification Board (FNCB). The standards for certification are high and require completion of a course required by the FNCB.
Forensic Nurse Salary
Forensic nursing salary can vary widely for different areas of the country and are also based on the experience level of the nurse. Hospitals offer an add-on to the nurse’s basic RN salary and that may be an additional $1-4 per hour for all time the nurse is scheduled to be on-call for emergencies.
Some organizations requiring the investigative ability of this specialized career do not pay on an hourly basis but on a per case basis while other employers offer 1 ½ time the nurse’s hourly rate.
Education and experience are the criteria for being paid at the higher end of the salary spectrum. For consulting, the nurse may be paid $150 or more but it is estimated the hourly pay range for forensic nursing may be as low as $26 per hour to as high as $100 per hour.
Forensic Nurse Career Opportunities
This is a relatively new career field and opportunities for employment are expanding. You may choose to focus on a career in legal nurse consulting, community education, death investigation or gerontology. Unlike some other forensic medical careers, nurses often deal with the emotional aspects associated with victims of assault or trauma.
The largest specialty is as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). In this area you collect evidence, address the emotional needs of the victim, and you conduct time sensitive evidence techniques in a way that will not further traumatize the victim. You may be called to present evidence in court as an expert witness.
In the area of abuse or sexual crimes you will combine the nurturing aspects of nursing with the reality of evidence gathering and will act as an advocate for the victim.
Take a look at other great Criminal Justice Careers.