Forensic nursing involves working with the aftermath of violent situations. Violence is both a health care and a legal issue, so this places forensic nurses in a unique leadership position to connect health care, science, and the legal system. Forensic nurses partner with law enforcement and other agencies to investigate and resolve events such as domestic violence, sexual crimes, child and elder abuse, homicide, and suicide.

What Education and Certifications are Required?

Registered nurses with an associate degree or a BSN and a good foundation of clinical experience can pursue this specialty through a certificate program or an advanced degree (MSN, DNP, PhD) and board certification. Forensic nurses also have their own professional association, the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), which provides opportunities for networking and professional development as well as education and certification resources. The Commission for Forensic Nursing Certification (CFNC) currently offers two certification options: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Pediatric (SANE-P).

What Do Forensic Nurses Do?

These specialized nurses work in emergency rooms, coroner’s offices, police departments, and even the FBI. They examine the victims of violent crime, collect and analyze evidence, and document injuries. How the nurse treats the patient—the victim of violence or the family left behind—can have a tremendous influence on the ability of that individual, their families, and loved ones to recover post-trauma.

Success Through Adaptability

Forensic nursing requires the ability to cope well with the stressors of working around extreme circumstances. The work involves public health, behavioral health, pediatrics, geriatrics, and even medical legal consulting. The versatility of the highly trained forensic nurse enables them to better care for those citizens who are most vulnerable in our society.

See also
Nurse of the Week: Anne Boatright Receives Transformational Leadership Award for Support of Sexual Assault Victims

Interested in exploring various career paths for nurses? Visit the DailyNurse nursing specialties directory to learn more.

Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN
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