Do you want to use your nursing abilities to help victims accurately document their trauma or tragedy? Can you keep yourself calm and collected during the chaos that often follows an accident? If you answered yes to both of these questions, then perhaps a career as a forensic nurse will fit you perfectly!
While a bachelor's degree is technically not a requirement to get into forensic science it is important to realize that an individual cannot become a nurse without having first obtained a degree. More specifically, to become a forensic nurse, individuals who have already obtained their bachelor's degree in nursing should seek the certificate that colleges and universities offer, which qualifies them to work as a forensic nurse.
Furthermore, an individual must have a current nursing license for the state they reside in to pursue a career as a forensic nurse. Basically, if you are actively practicing as a nurse, then you can choose to further your certifications and level of education by becoming a forensic nurse. So, if you are still interested in becoming a forensic nurse then continue reading to learn all you can about this exciting career path!
As a forensic nurse you will spend your work day interacting at a crime scene. You will be responsible for treating victims, gathering evidence, working alongside investigators, and serving as a liaison between medical and criminal personnel. Additionally, it is common for forensic nurses to be required to testify in court proceedings on behalf of the victim. The training that you will receive as you work to become a forensic nurse will teach you how to determine an effective treatment plan for victims when you arrive at the scene of a crime, how to work within medical team and law enforcement teams, how to collect and sort forensic evidence, and how to recognize and apply the necessary procedures to treat a wide range of traumas. Specific examples of the required courses you will have to complete are: crime scene preservation, courtroom testimony procedures, advanced practice forensic nursing, forensic photography and healthcare, introduction to forensic science, forensic approaches to domestic violence, and forensic approaches to firearm injury.
Many traditional colleges and universities offer a graduate level degree program that will also qualify you to become a forensic nurse. Generally speaking, as you work to complete this degree program you would want to choose an area of focus for your studies. Common focus areas are: sexual assault nurse, clinical nurse specialist, forensic correctional nurse, nurse coroner, nurse investigator, and forensic psychiatric nurse. Of course, as with many current post-secondary degree programs, you can work to become a forensic nurse on a full time student basis or a part time student basis. In addition, many colleges and universities offer portions of this degree program in a distance learning format. Both of these factors should appeal greatly to individuals who plan to continue working in their capacity as a nurse while also working to further their level of education.
You’ll need to wear a lot of hats as a forensic nurse. During our degree training you will pick up lot of skills that will be essential for your job. Some traits some people are just born with and have a knack for including the following:
1. Organizational Skill Set – Being a nurse isn’t an easy career and you’ll have to have the ability to be well organized in order to make your day run smoothly.
2. Being Calm – Not only will you be need to be emotionally calm during your day but your patients that you are helping need to know you are there for them emotionally when odds are things are not going well.
3. Multi-Tasking – Hospitals are very hectic and it is highly unlikely that you’ll just be dealing with one patient at a time. You’ll need to learn how to multi-task if you want to be a good forensic nurse.
4. Analyze – You’ll need the ability to analyze evidence and be accurate with your findings.
Many of the schools that offer this degree program will have similar course curriculum. The goal is to find one that has the same graduate outcomes that fit the career you intend to have. You’ll need to take your training from an accredited school at a campus location that is close to your home or work. Here are just a few of the area’s most programs focus on.
- Forensic Nursing Principles
- Substance Abuse
- Nursing Research
- Crisis Management
- Violence and the Impact it has on Society
- Health Care Policies
- Practice and Policy Development
- Forensic Clinical and Advanced Nursing
We could list 100’s of tasks and roles that you’ll have to be responsible for as a forensic nurse. Some of the areas you probably wouldn’t have thought of include:
Trauma Nurse – Provide care to those that typically come in from violence crimes. This is very common in the larger cities where not only violence is higher but where hospitals can see 80% of their patients a night that were involved in shootings are stabbings.
Nurse Coroner Assistant – Will assist the coroner by collecting key information. It depends on the size of the hospital but often you can assist with things like drawing blood or collecting other samples that might be needed later.
Witness – Be an expert witness and testify in civil course cases. Sometimes you will be called to help explain the process or exactly what you saw during your time helping a victim that has come into the hospital.
Corrections – Specialize in those detained in jail or prisons. Learn to perform safe, routine examinations. You can also work in law enforcement as a forensic nurse assisting with cases.
If you want to earn your certification you can visit the Forensic Nursing Certification Board where they offer a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for Adult/Adolescent as well as a SANE-P for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner I Pediatric. Some of the requirements involved you to be an RN for 2 years, successful completion of the SANE program with 40 hours of classwork. Visit www.forensicnurses.org for more information.