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Nursing Careers: Forensic Nursing

Is Forensic Nursing in Your Future?

by Greg Cryns

Forensic nursing could be described as a combination of nursing care and criminal justice. It brings nursing science into the realm if investigation of accidental injuy or death. It is often connected with physical sexual abuse. In 1995 the American Nurses Association officially recognized this specialty.

Recent popular TV shows like CSI brought forensic nursing into our living rooms. People who watch that show now have an idea about how this nursing career works. It is now one of the fastest growing nursing specialties. It appeals to people who want to make a difference in their community. This is different than wanting to help individual people in a hospital setting. You would want to be community minded.

The job requires a nurse to efficiently collect evidence that will likely be used in a court of law. In addition, a forensic nurse will be called on to testify in criminal trials. This fact scares many otherwise qualified people. Most people in this profession practice as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE). They need training to work with victims of violent crime who may or may not be cooperative with the nurse. Forensic nurses are patient advocates and as such are called into courts to testify on behalf of their patients.

Courses you will need may include Rape Trauma Syndrome, Continuum of Care, Crime Lab Kit, Photography, STD's, Death Investigation, Evidence Collection, Serology & DNA Analysis, Advocate/Police Roles, Profiling of Sexual Offenders, Expert Witness Testimony and learning about the judicial system and laws.

If you have an interest in criminal justice and nursing and you can handle testimony, this might be the perfect career for you.

Since this is possibly a one year certificate program, a registered nurse (RN) may be attracted to forensic nursing as a change of pace to possibly revitalize their main interest in nursing. Kaplan University offers an online Masters degree.

Some specialties that are available include legal nurse consulting, death investigation, sexual assault nursing and community education.

How much do forensic nurses earn? 

Keep in mind that many forensic nurses are employed by hospitals. There are many variables that determine how much money you would make. The hospitals pay a minimal amount for "on call" time. When the action starts you could earn $25-$100 per hour. It is reasonable to assume that a nurse will earn more money in this career due to the advanced education required.


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