The Forensic Nurse

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    The Forensic Nurse is an all-important individual who can help those who have been neglected, abused, sexually assaulted as well as many other types of violent crimes. These nurses are beneficial in communicating with Law Enforcement agencies and can serve as resources for creating "anti-violent" crime units. The following Article will introduce you to the world of Forensic Nursing, explain the importance of the career and hopefully challenge other Nurses to consider taking on the challenge that could make a difference in the lives of those who need their expertise in Forensics.

    The world of Forensic Nursing is still in its infancy. Wide-open opportunities are everywhere. I think you can find something in just about any city and it doesn't have to be a major city either. Forensic Nurses, in my opinion, play an integral role between law enforcement and medicine. This career utilizes all areas of nursing from being the support person for the newborn throughout the lifespan until death. Nurses who have a love for the Law, are experienced in many areas of nursing should consider this type of career. We are desperately needed to support and protect those who are unable to defend themselves. Most Boards of Nursing recognize this specialty and include education, continuing education, and certification/re-certification requirements.

    Forensic Nurses can be RNs, LPNs, and Paramedics. Most, however, are graduates of Post-Masters certificate programs.

    The individual (victim) who has suffered from intentional or even non-intentional situations can benefit from the Forensic Nurse who is trained to handle almost any situation.

    Roles of the Forensic Nurse
    • Crime Scene visits
    • Evidence collection
    • Photographic injuries
    • Automobile and/or pedestrian accidents/collisions

    The Forensic Nurse can also enter into the following fields (not all inclusive):
    • Nurse Coroner
    • Forensic Photographer
    • Medical Examiner Nurse Investigator
    • Death Scene Investigator

    The most common Forensic Nurse is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). The nurse cares for the victim of a sexual assault, documents for possible criminal cases, collects forensic evidence, and may be called to testify at trial. One thing to remember is that the Forensic Nurse is a "support" person, not an advocate for the victim.

    A very intriguing career, Forensic Nurses must study and understand legal issues as well. Many Legal Nurse Consultants (LNC) cross-train as Forensic Nurses, too.

    Focus of study to become a Forensic Nurse (not all inclusive):
    • Perpetrator theory
    • Victimology
    • Criminology
    • Forensic Law
    • Preservation of evidence
    • DNA lab interpretation
    • Elder/Child Abuse


    It is difficult to discuss salary compensation as a Forensic Nurse. Nurses in larger and major cities are compensated at a higher rate by private individuals and seem to make a substantial living as a Forensic Nurse. The website stated that US sexual assault nurse examiners earned an average salary of $55,000 while salaries for forensic nurse examiners at $60,000 (information as of December 2013).

    UPDATE 5-13-16: The Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 26% growth rate for jobs in nursing, with forensic nursing being the fastest growing sub-specialty from 2010 to 2020.

    Average Salaries Across the Country - Forensics Nursing Salary + Careers Outlook

    One thing that I found very interesting is a quote from Joseph Biden, 47th Vice President of the United Sates. He recognized the importance of this all-important Nursing Career.

    "Forensic Nurses play an integral role in bridging the gap between law and medicine. They should be in each and every emergency room"

    Joseph Biden, Vice President, United States from Forensic Nursing: a Handbook for Practice

    Future Articles will include Educative Entities.
    Last edit by sirI on Nov 8, '16
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    About sirI, MSN, APRN, NP Admin

    sirI is an APRN with many years experience as OB-GYN NP - BC, (Emeritus), FNP - BC, and Legal Nurse Consultant. Her specialty areas include OB-GYN, trauma, education, and medical-legal education. She conducts seminars for Nursing Students, Nurses, Residents, and other healthcare providers educating them on how to avoid litigation, assisting them with depositions, and conducting "Mock Trials" where the students are the players in the court proceedings. sirI is a Senior Administrator for

    Joined: Jun '05; Posts: 108,235; Likes: 28,032
    MedLeg Consul/Educator/WHNP-FNP; from US
    Specialty: 35 year(s) of experience in Education, FP, LNC, Forensics, ED, OB

    Read My Articles


  3. by   Pixie.RN
    Do you know much about the post-Masters at Duquesne? I am considering something like that, Forensic Nursing has always interested me. Great article, thank you, Siri!
  4. by   TiniestLights
    Thank you for a great article! Very interested in this field. There are SAFE departments at a couple of hospitals here in the Baltimore area, but I am a little surprised they aren't more prevalent. Looking forward to learning more about this amazing specialty.
  5. by   That Guy
    And people laughed at me when I said the most stable pts are the dead ones so forensic nursing would be for them. I think it sounds very interesting.
  6. by   Flare
    I am so intrigued by this field - the only this holding me back is the moolah to get the schooling
  7. by   sirI

    I will be writing future Articles on different Forensic Nursing Education. Some offer certificates and others brief education w/o certification.

    Stay tuned for I think I can help you make some wise decisions.
  8. by   Flare
    That's terrific! I look forward to reading them!!
  9. by   annewithane
    Very interesting, I always thought I would enjoy doing something like this, but had really didn't know the role a nurse could play. Thank you for opening my eyes .
  10. by   PocketSize
    One of my reasons for going into nursing school was to become a Forensics Nurse. I'm surprised a user mentioned places in Baltimore. It makes sense but I'm still a little cloudy about the opportunities available in my area. I've read about forensic nurses with just an ADN (of course, they have years of experience under their belt) but I'm interested in learning more about this growing field. Keep us in the look SirI!
  11. by   sirI
    The more information I receive, I'll pass along, PocketSize. Please bear in mind you do not have to have a BSN or post-grad degree in order to practice Forensic Nursing.

    I'm beginning to get some information about the role of Death Investigator becoming more popular. This sounds very interesting to me. Will research this in more detail as I can.
  12. by   Nurseworks
    Sorry for the thread necro, but it is kind of appropriate given the subject.

    As a former LEO (correction), I was understandably excited when this sub-specialty was made known to me. What job opportunities could I reasonably expect to have, outside of SANE and correction, in the greater NYC area?
  13. by   Oldschoolnurse1
    After following this thread and looking online I am quite interested in forensic nursing however I do not have the slightest idea what steps to take and who to contact to get started. I am hoping those of you in this field already can help me ( and others) with ( i) information on what we need, ( ii) what courses are needed, ( iii) who to talk to and ( iv) where to apply. Any information is greatly appreciated. Thank you. I have been an RN for 20+ years. Currently colorado/Wyoming
  14. by   Jellybear
    Thank you for the info on Forensic Nursing. I have been interested since I started Nursing school in 2009. I am currently working on my BSN and plan on continuing on to my Masters in Forensic Nursing. I am in Northwest Indiana about an 45 minutes southeast of Chicago. I haven't done much research but I would LOVE to work as a Forensic nurse as part of police/sheriff department for their crime lab.

    Possibly even on a federal level. Again thanks for the info!