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Nursing Career Path: What Is a Forensic Nurse?

Forensic nursing, which focuses on health care for persons who have suffered from abuse and violence, is essential to the health care industry. A forensic nurse has a unique role that connects the two worlds of law and medicine. Forensic nurses help rebuild the health of victims of violence and abuse, plus they also help them to achieve legal justice.

Cases of domestic abuse have risen all over the world during this COVID-19 pandemic, according to the New York Times. While many patients need treatment for illnesses or accidental injuries, it’s not surprising that there are also a lot of patients who need health care because they have been deliberately harmed by others, whether by people close to them or by total strangers. Read on to find out what a forensic nurse is and how you can become one yourself.

What Is a Forensic Nurse?

A forensic nurse is a Registered Nurse (RN) or Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) who specializes in patient care for victims of intentional injury, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

Forensic nurses commonly treat patients who have been physically, sexually, or mentally harmed through domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, elder neglect, human trafficking, and other similar cases.

Nurses typically practice forensic nursing in different types of settings, such as hospitals, psychiatric institutions, correctional facilities, anti-violence programs, medical examiner’s offices, universities, colleges, and communities.

What Are the Roles and Responsibilities of a Forensic Nurse?

Forensic nurses have two main roles that combine health care and law for the well-being of victims of abuse and violence.

One of the main roles of a forensic nurse is to provide health care to patients who have experienced acute and long-term health issues and trauma caused by a deliberate injury. The nursing care responsibilities of a forensic nurse may include:

  • Assisting physicians during medical procedures and treatments
  • Administering medication to patients
  • Monitoring the vital signs of patients
  • Recording and updating the health history and medication history of patients

Another main role of a forensic nurse is to offer medical services to law enforcement teams and other forensic professionals, according to the American Forensic Nurses. Here are some of the law-related responsibilities of a forensic nurse:

  • Collecting medical evidence, such as DNA samples and bodily fluids, from victims and suspects
  • Coordinating with law enforcement agencies and legal teams
  • Offering testimony in civil and criminal proceedings
  • Working with medical examiners during death investigations of patients

Forensic nursing may also involve other duties, such as participation in educational outreach programs and collaboration with nonprofit organizations.

How Can You Become a Forensic Nurse?

If you are interested to become a forensic nurse, you should prepare to be a Registered Nurse (RN). You may enroll in an accredited nursing program to attain an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. Do your best to take classes in forensic nursing when possible.

You may also prepare to become an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) by pursuing a postgraduate degree, such as a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). As an optional way to boost your credentials, you may choose to get a master’s degree in forensic nursing.

After you have achieved official certification as an RN or APN, you may also seek specialty certification as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) by undergoing SANE training. While SANE certification is not a requirement for all forensic nursing jobs, it can help prepare you to offer competent medical forensic care for patients recovering from sexual abuse or sexual assault.

You may also choose to pursue other specializations in the field of forensic nursing. Depending on your interest and skills, you can become a forensic nurse investigator, psychiatric forensic nurse, legal nurse consultant, forensic clinical nurse specialist, correctional nursing specialist, child abuse nurse examiner, forensic gerontology specialist, or nurse coroner.

What Is the Salary & Job Outlook of a Forensic Nurse?

The salary of forensic nurses depends on various factors, including what type of nursing license they have. Forensic nurses who are Registered Nurses (RNs) may potentially earn an estimated annual income of $73,300 and an hourly rate of $35.24, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Forensic nurses who are Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs), also known as Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs), may possibly earn an approximate annual salary of $115,800 and an hourly wage of $55.67.

There is certainly space in the medical field for more forensic nurses. After all, the demand for RNs is expected to grow by 7% from 2019 to 2029, while the employment rate for APNs is estimated to increase by 45% during the same time period. With the right education and training, you have the opportunity to become a forensic nurse yourself in the future.

Are You Prepared to Follow the Nursing Career Path of a Forensic Nurse?

Forensic nursing is definitely not for the faint of heart. To be realistic, it can be emotionally and mentally challenging to be exposed to the aftermath of abuse and violence on a regular basis due to the nature of the job.

However, the career of a forensic nurse can also be deeply gratifying since it will give you the chance to play an important role in each patient’s journey towards healing and recovery. It can be a rewarding experience to help people rebuild themselves after experiencing pain and trauma on various levels.

Have you decided that the nursing career path of a forensic nurse is right for you? You can start preparing for your future career in forensic nursing by increasing your general nursing knowledge with the help of Clipboard Academy.

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