What Is a Forensic Nurse?
April 22, 2014
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According to the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), forensic nursing is the fastest-growing subspecialty in the nursing profession. A forensic nurse is a registered nurse with specialized training and experience, and they have become an indispensable member of both emergency medical and legal teams.
What Is Forensic Nursing?
Nursing professionals trained in forensics make a difference in solving crimes and ensuring convictions. The subspecialty was founded in 1992 by a group of forensic nurses who met for a conference in Minneapolis, Minn. The American Association of Nurses formally recognized the field in 1996.
Trained to not only collect evidence, forensic nurses also serve as expert witnesses in court proceedings. In many hospitals, the forensic nurse is the principal liaison between the medical system and the criminal justice system. Working primarily out of hospital emergency departments, they also work in county health departments, medical examiner offices, law enforcement agencies or as independent medical and legal consultants.
Forensic nurses often collect evidence of sexual assault and child abuse. In addition to acting as medical witnesses, they also serve as death investigators and as medical staff and community educators. Forensic nurses are becoming especially important in medicolegal death investigations by identifying dead people and collecting evidence.
How Can You Become a Forensic Nurse?
Being a registered nurse is the first prerequisite. Beyond that, specialized training is available in many locations. Some schools offer a certification in forensic nursing, Bachelor of Science and Master of Science in Forensic Nursing degrees or even a Ph.D. Beyond your license to practice nursing in your state, there are no special licenses for forensic nurses. However, certification, although voluntary, is highly recommended to establish credibility. There are no national standards for the profession, and each state has its own set of criteria required to be a certified forensic nurse.
If you are already working as a registered nurse, your employers might pay for some or all of your training. If you cannot find a program because of distance or other constraints, some schools offer online training.
The IAFN administers two types of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) certification examinations: the SANE-A is a specialization for forensic nurses focused on adults and adolescents, while the SANE-P is a pediatric specialty. These tests are administered twice a year, with exam dates, certification requirements and other information available on the IAFN website.
There is no reliable data on how much forensic nurses earn, but you can certainly expect additional benefits as a specialist. Data on job growth is equally sparse, but jobs should expand because it is a rapidly growing profession.
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