How do I become a Forensic Nurse?

How would you like to combine your passion of caring for others and your interest in the legal system? If so, becoming a Forensic Nurse may be a good option for you. This is a specialty within the nursing field that blends medical practice with the legalities of the patient’s medical information. Forensic Nurses are responsible for collecting evidence, especially crimes involving sexual assault or death. They perform exams in order to determine if a crime has been committed, however, the nurse must respond immediately to obtain strong evidence. They often give testimony that can be used in the court of law to convict criminals who commit abusive or violent crimes.

Nursing, in general, can be demanding physically due to excessive time on your feet and moving and lifting patients. However, a Forensic Nurse may have added pressure due to the emotional stress one endures when dealing with the pain and the emotional instability in which the patient is enduring. The Forensic Nurse can be subject to experiencing horrific abuse situations and even brutal deaths. The FN must be organized, detail oriented, a critical thinker, as well as, compassionate and exceptionally sensitive to the patient or victim’s family needs. A Forensic Nurse must be emotionally stable at all times.

As a Forensic Nurse, you may work in a hospital or clinical setting treating the patient’s physical or emotional needs after a traumatic experience. However, you may also be called upon to consult with law enforcement and lawyers in which your medical knowledge is pertinent to the criminal case. You may also choose to work within a particular legal firm.

Forensic Nurses earn an average annual salary of $81,800, however, your salary can range from $50,000 to upwards of $140,000 per year, depending on experience, educational degree and job location. This position has a probability of a 19% growth rate between now and 2022.

If you would like to become a Forensic Nurse, you must first follow the usual path to becoming a Registered Nurse such as earning your online Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing and passing the NCLEX-RN examination.

Next, you may opt to receive your forensic training through a certificate program or through a two-year online Master of Science degree program that focuses on Forensic Nursing. With the latter being the best option, it will possibly afford you more opportunities and a better, more lucrative salary. A MSN program in Forensic Nursing will prepare a nurse to assess injuries, to identify and prevent domestic abuse, evaluate traumas, assist in legal investigations and cooperate with law enforcement, be familiar with the legal system, respond quickly in emergency situations and to perform coroner, consulting and forensic psychiatric duties.

Although not a requirement, it is recommended that you earn certification as a Forensic Nursing Specialist due to the highly delicate nature of the litigations you might encounter. For additional licensing, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Certification – Adults/Adolescents (SANE-A) and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Pediatric (SANE-P) Certifications are highly recommended. This position may also require continued education, as well, to keep on top of the latest advances in medical technology and changing laws.

To qualify to take the SANE certification exams, you must have a valid RN license, at least 40 hours of sexual assault coursework, two years minimum of experience in nursing practice and supervised experience as a nurse examiner in sexual assault cases. Certification must be renewed every three years.

If you have an interest in helping others and think that a nursing degree is for you, then check out our Top Online Nursing Degree Programs.