How to Become a Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses are trained professionals who specialize in a subcategory of forensic science. Generally speaking, they deal with patients who were the victim of a crime, including assault, rape and domestic violence, along with murder cases. While treating people and evaluating the situation, they also collect physical evidence that is given to various law enforcement agencies for further processing.

What you should know

Forensic nurses often work together with pathologists and scientists when examining evidence, and they may be called upon to testify in court as well. They must have a degree in nursing, be licensed as a registered nurse, be trained in forensic science and become certified in their area of expertise, once they have chosen a specialty, in order to practice.

Getting started

If this is a career that interests you, take the initiative and learn about the various opportunities available in the field of forensic nursing. For example, you can specialize in psychiatry, counseling, criminology, pediatrics or general forensic nursing. If you are a student, speak with your guidance counselor, read online and print materials related to the topic, and consult with nurses who are working in the field today. Also, note that the pre-requisites required will be based on your chosen specialty, and you will want to give your choice a great deal of thought and attention.

Taking the next step

To become a forensic nurse, you must earn a degree as a registered nurse (RN) from an accredited university or college. As a rule, this requires a two- to four-year curriculum leading to a degree as a registered nurse, an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelor’s degree in nursing.

After you have completed your nursing program, you must take the National Council Licensure Examination in order to receive your nursing license and practice in the state where you are employed.

Picking your specialty

You can choose a specialty from a number of forensic subcategories, including correctional nursing expert, clinical nurse expert, forensic gerontology specialist, forensic psychiatric nurse, legal advisor and consultant, sexual assault examiner and death investigator. You will find that the required courses for your area of specialization are available in both traditional colleges and online training schools. You best approach is to consider several schools to determine which one is best for you, based on your career plans, family responsibilities and financial situation.

Enrolling in a program

Currently, several institutions of higher learning provide advanced nursing courses to nurses who are performing certain activities related to forensic nursing as part of their job description and other nurses who are planning a career change.

Becoming a Certified Forensic Nurse (CFN)

The American College of Forensic Examiners (ACFE) and the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IFAN) offer certification to those who have met the educational requirements related to some area of forensic nursing. The ACFE provides a CFN Examiner course covering Violence and Victimology, Homicide and Child Maltreatment, and Criminalistics and Forensic Science. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SNAEs) are certified by the IFAN.

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