How Is Forensic Nursing Defined?
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Forensic nurses are trained to care for victims of trauma, violence, and abuse. They have a background in both criminal justice and nursing. They are on the front lines when victims of crime are in the most desperate need of assistance, offering sensitive, compassionate treatment while painstakingly gathering pertinent evidence that may be required in court later. Certain forensic nurses choose to specialize in sexual assault/trauma by becoming Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners certified (SANE).
How to Become a Forensic Nurse
Those interested in forensic nursing should be motivated not only by a desire to provide direct patient care, but also by a desire to serve as a patient advocate. Additionally, they should be interested in criminal justice and the judicial system. A keen eye for detail is also a desirable characteristic in forensic nursing. Due to the emotionally exhausting and potentially unsettling nature of forensic nursing situations, maintaining a healthy work-life balance and receiving support from family and friends is critical.
What Educational Requirements Are Required of a Forensic Nurse?
Accreditation as a graduate of an accredited nursing program is required. Aspiring forensic nurses can earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) or an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) (BSN). While a master’s degree in nursing (MSN) is not needed, it may increase the employability of a nurse. Additionally, several forms of forensic nursing certificates require graduate degrees in specialty forensic nursing.
Successful completion of the NCLEX-RN exam following completion of a nursing program is required for licensure as a registered nurse.
A nurse can practice as a registered nurse or graduate to the job of nurse practitioner specialized in forensic nursing.
Are there any required certifications or credentials?
Certification in forensic nursing is strongly advised. While certification is not needed, it displays a dedication to the profession and a higher level of care in the field of forensic nursing.
Registered nurses and advanced practice nurses can earn a certification as a forensic nurse specialist by completing a structured program. The American Institute of Health Care Professionals provides thorough forensic nursing training, as well as 250 contact hours of ongoing education. The following are the criteria for this program:
- Completion of formal nursing training
- A valid/current RN license
- While the American Nurses Credentialing Center used to provide an Advanced Forensic Nursing certification, the ANCC discontinued it in late 2017.
What Types of Jobs Do Forensic Nurses Have?
Forensic nurses have the opportunity to work in a range of patient care settings. Forensic nurses may work in the following hospital departments:
- Emergency departments
- Urgent care centers that assist with trauma situations (both intentional and accidental), injuries, and assault/abuse
- In the community, forensic nurses may find work with the following organizations:
- Examiners of medicine
- Local government administrations
- Non-profit groups that assist survivors of trauma/abuse
What Is the Role of a Forensic Nurse?
Forensic nurses do a variety of duties that vary according to their location. Forensic nurses essentially wear two hats: one as a nurse and another as a law enforcement officer. This unique dual duty guarantees that victims of crime receive the highest quality care possible during a particularly challenging emotional and physical time. Sexual assault or battery victims may lack trust in caretakers or may be scared to report the incident to law authorities. Forensic nurses on the front lines can serve as caregivers and liaisons, limiting encounters with victims and thereby fostering trust.
Forensic nurses working in emergency rooms/urgent care settings may:
- Take a complete medical history of the patient.
- Collect evidence such as fragments of clothing, human fluids, and bullets.
- Conduct bodily examinations
- Take photographs of any injuries or evidence.
- Provide wound treatment
- Conduct an interview with the patient and/or family
- Notify local legal enforcement and Child/Adult Protective Services of victims of assault/abuse.
- Services of protection
- In the community, forensic nurses may:
- Collect blood/tissue specimens
- Attend the scene of the accident/death
- Take photographs of any injuries or wounds.
- Take photos of criminal scenes
- Gather evidence
- Contribute to autopsies
- Assume the role of a deputy coroner
What Are the Duties and Responsibilities of a Forensic Nurse?
Regardless of whether forensic nurses operate in a hospital or community environment, with deceased or living patients, their tasks are identical. These include the following:
- Collect data and provide comprehensive documentation
- Serve as a bridge between assault victims and their families
- Serve as a point of contact for law enforcement and social services
- Provide testimony in court
- Assist victims and their families with consolation
- Provide victims and families with assistance such as mental health therapy, shelters, and so on.
Salary and Employment Opportunities for Forensic Nurses
Forensic nursing is a relatively recent field of nursing practice. The unique function of a forensic nurse as caregiver and crime specialist has resulted in the creation of numerous new job prospects. PayScale.com estimates that forensic nurses earn between $46,509 and $90,960 per year. This may vary according to the individual’s credentials, state, city, and organization.
The job forecast for forensic nurses is particularly positive, currently there aren’t enough forensic nurses across the U.S.