What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?
Forensic nurses are medical professionals trained in evidence collection, the criminal justice system and its procedures, and legal testimony expertise. They specialize in aiding the investigations of crimes like sexual assault, accidental deaths, abuse and physical assaults. Forensic nurses are the link between the medical profession and the criminal justice department. The majority of forensic nurses work in hospital emergency rooms, interpreting the first signs of wrong doing or foul play. Forensic nurses should be thorough, calculating and still sympathetic to their patients and victims. Their duties can include taking samples of blood and tissue, photographing and measuring wounds, testifying in court and collecting other vital evidence on the body. They must conduct these duties in a timely fashion while also trying to provide support and encouragement for the victims. Forensic nurses can specialize in a variety of subsets, including sexual assault nursing, nurse death investigator, expert medical witness, community education and more.
How Can I Become a Forensic Nurse?
If you are interested in working as a forensic nurse, you must first become a licensed registered nurse. This can be achieved by attending a nursing school program for either two or four years and then successfully passing the national licensing exam, NCLEX-RN. After working for several years in a forensic nursing environment, registered nurses are eligible to sit for certification exams. While there is no specific certification for general forensic nursing, there are two related certification options a registered nurse can earn, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Adolescent/Adult, and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – Pediatric. These exams are administered by the International Association of Forensic Nurses. They are computer based, multiple choice exams that focus on identifying the dynamics of sexual abuse, evaluating a sexual assault patient, clinically managing the patient, interaction throughout the judicial process, recognizing the roles of sexual assault response teams and knowledge of patient subgroups. Receiving these certification can afford a registered nurse more job possibilities and even a higher salary.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Forensic Nurse?
The field of forensic nursing can be both very challenging and very rewarding. Many find it difficult working with victims of crimes, especially abuse cases related to children and adolescents. While the nature of the work can be trying at times, many find it rewarding working with the criminal justice department in an effort to put the perpetrators behind bars. They see a direct correlation between their actions and the serving of justice. Because there has been an increase in forensic technology in the last several years, the demand for forensic nurses is rising. The demand is especially high in areas like psychiatric facilities, correctional facilities, law enforcement agencies, hospitals and medical examiners offices. The average salary for registered nurses in the United States is around $62,000 per year, but this can depend greatly on the education and training on receives, the geographic location, as well as the hiring facility.