Nurse Specialties: Forensic Nursing

Forensic nurses play a crucial role in both medicine and the criminal justice system. As the name implies, this type of nurse has spent many years in nursing school learning the skills necessary to become a nurse and learning about the criminal justice system. Forensic evidence collected from victims of a crime can make or break a criminal case in the courtroom, so forensic nurses are cautious, highly-skilled individuals.

Students in nursing schools with a strong desire to work with victims of violent crime and who have an interest in the legal prosecution for such crimes are best-fitted to a career in forensic nursing. Forensic nurses are often required to testify in court about their findings during a forensic examination, so students should also be well-spoken and acquire detailed knowledge of this part of their job.

What is Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing is a highly-specialized field of medicine in which the nurse is responsible for gathering evidence while treating the victims of a crime. Abuse, neglect, violence, and sexual assault victims are put under the care of a forensic nurse when medical treatment is provided at a hospital or otherwise. The most commonly recognized type of nurse in this field is one who performs rape-kit testing in a hospital setting. However, there are many other types of forensic nurses, as described under the careers section, below. All of them are critical components of the criminal justice system.

For more information about Forensic Nursing in the United States, including their role in the legal system and how they help victims, visit American Forensic Nurses. The International Association of Forensic Nursing is an international organization which centers on the impact of this field of nursing around the globe.

Nursing School Curriculum for Forensic Nursing

Like all other specialty nurses, forensic nurses must attend at least two years in a nursing school to qualify to earn a specialty in forensic nursing. During this time, nursing students study the basics and advanced principles of nursing and become registered nurses. Once the student becomes a licensed RN, he or she may elect to become a certified forensic nurse specialist. Certification for this specialty is considered “continued education” and can only be obtained following successful completion of an RN program and subsequent RN licensing.

Continuing education classes for forensic nursing certification generally add up to 250 hours and include:

  • Forensic Theory and Practice
  • Forensic Applications
  • Forensic Pathology

Careers for Nursing School Graduates with Forensic Nursing Specialty

Forensic nurses can work in a wide variety of careers, depending on their preference and job training. Many nurses work in hospitals and laboratories, while others choose to teach instead of practicing nursing in a medical environment. Because forensic nurses are so specialized, this field may be broken down into several sub-specialties and career categories.

Career specialties for forensic nurse professionals include:

  • Correctional Forensic Nursing
  • Clinical Forensic Nursing
  • Forensic Gerontology Nursing
  • Forensic Psychiatric Nursing
  • Forensic Nurse Consulting
  • Forensic Investigation Nursing
  • Forensic Sexual Assault Nursing
  • Forensic Medical Examination Nursing

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