As the saying goes, not all heroes wear capes. A lot of them are in the medical field, spending their lives saving and improving other people’s lives. Forensic nurses can be considered as such as they play crucial roles in helping victims get justice for what was done to them.
If you’re interested in helping others through this profession, learn more about forensic nursing below.
What is a Forensic Nurse?
Aside from illnesses of different kinds, nurses can also have patients who have been assaulted in varying manners and degrees. Most of the time, if the case is considered to be connected to a crime, an expert in collecting what can be considered as medical evidence is called in to handle them.
Forensic nurses are knowledgeable not only in caring for patients but in finding the signs and proofs of abuse, assault, or crime. They know what to look for to make or break a case and they are trained to collect and secure evidence. They play a crucial role in an investigation as they can help prove whether a crime has been committed.
Forensic nursing is the specialty where the fields of law enforcement and medicine meet. Nurses in this line of work are trained to do a variety of things that can help the investigation move forward which are necessary to prosecute an offender.
Most forensic nurses are experts in the area of sexual assault. They can also help in death investigations, forensic psychiatric nursing, and medical-legal counseling with the right additional training. This is why they can be hired by various institutions and organizations as their expertise are very useful and wide-reaching.
What They Do
A forensic nurse can do a wide variety of things. They’re most commonly involved in crime investigations. Most of the time, they’re “on call” for police proceedings and brought in to collect evidence from the victim. They can handle trauma patients adeptly while following the proper chain of custody of the evidence so they can be used in court.
A lot of forensic nurses specialize in sexual abuse so they often collect and secure evidence from the victim. They also photograph injuries and work with the medical examiner in cases where the victim died.
They can also testify in court as a medical expert on the cases that they’re handling. In some cases, they also consult with legal authorities.
Where They Work
Lots of forensic nurses also work as emergency room nurses. This is why they’re often highly skilled and experienced. You’ll often find them in hospitals, psychiatric institutions, correctional facilities, disaster sites, coroners’ and medical examiners’ offices, and even schools. They can also work for non-profit organizations.
How Much They Make
Like with other specialties, forensic nurses also have varying salaries depending on their location and the facility that they’re working for. The median salary, however, is about $32 per hour or nearly $70k a year.
To ensure that you’ll be compensated handsomely for your services, it’s important to be clear and upfront about what they will expect from you for being “on call”.
What Can You Expect in Being a Forensic Nurse?
The first thing that you need to know about being a forensic nurse is that every day can turn out to be different. You can’t really expect what’s coming next in this line of work as it has a lot to do with crimes and abuse. Some days will be hectic, others will be relatively relaxed. You still have to be ready for anything, however, as you never know what’s going to happen.
Experts also say that ‘vicarious trauma’ is counted as an occupational hazard for forensic nurses. As you’ll need to work with victims, their stories and experiences can somehow affect your psyche. There will be really bad days and they can really take a toll on you. It may not be immediate, but it can eat on you, especially since the horrible stories can accumulate over the years.
As a positive coping mechanism, most workplaces have very strong bonds. As forensic nurses know what their co-workers are going through, you can find a support system from your colleagues.
How to Become a Forensic Nurse?
To become a forensic nurse, you first have to know whether you can handle the job. This line of work is tougher than a lot of other nursing specialties because of all the trauma you’ll be dealing with.
If you think you’re up for the challenges that come with this area, you can specialize in forensic nursing after you get your license and gained relevant clinical nursing experience. Working as an ER, a psychiatric, pediatric, and medical-surgical nurse can be a good start.
Getting a certification from the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) can also help you specialize in this area. You can also take additional credits on forensic nursing to help you get better acquainted with the duties that come with the job.
Some experts also recommend getting an MSN in Forensic Nursing as it can make you a stronger candidate for a job but it’s not really a guarantee.
If you’re detailed-oriented, organized, has the heart to help others in need, and relatively well-versed in criminal justice, forensic nursing can be a good fit for you.
Nursing Organizations Associated with Forensic Nurses
What organizations are out there for forensic nurses?
- International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN)
- American Academy of Forensic Sciences
- American Board of Medico-Legal Investigators
Not quite sure if forensic nursing is for you but you’re interested in its general scope? Here are other specialties that might interest you:
- Forensic Psychiatric Nursing
- Correctional Facility Nursing
- Domestic Violence Nursing
- Legal Nurse Consultant
- Nurse Attorney
- Public Health Nursing