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Forensic Nursing Practice: A Growing Specialty

a nurse looking into a microscopeWhat is Forensic Nursing?

Specialized nurses that focus mainly on medicine with science and criminology as it pertains to the law are known as forensic nurses, and are practicing forensic nursing. Normally forensic nursing consists of assisting forensic scientists and forensic psychologists in collecting data in order to create a more realistic picture of the events that lead to each particular case. They have specialized training in the collection of forensic evidence, as well as criminal procedures and more. They are also called upon in court to provide their forensic expertise in the form of a testimony. The forensic nursing field often works with criminal victims that are the product of violent and intense mental and physical abuse. They serve mainly as the liaison between both the medical field and the criminal justice system. For this reason, it is critical that forensic nurses are familiarized with both fields. With the advancement of forensic technology, forensic nurses play a critical role in the criminal justice system used today.

The majority of forensic nursing is done outside of the hospital. They are normally the first medical representatives called upon to make the first assessments of a victim’s condition and dictate which procedures will follow next. It is typical for forensic nurses to posses the ability to properly asses the victims in a chaotic environment. Some situations can be hectic and a forensic nurse must be able to remain calm and make quick and correct decisions with a stressful situation surrounding them.

Forensic nursing is also needed in other areas outside of the criminal justice world. In the event of a natural disaster, these nurses play a large role in determining whether victims caught in a storm, hurricane, earthquake or flood will make it through alive or not. In the event that there are some people that did not survive a natural disaster, these nurses use their forensic training to help identify bodies and collect evidence to better aid research.

 How to Become a Forensic Nurse?

If you are interested in the forensic nursing field, there are several programs that are designed to train a person and prepare them for this field. First, however, you must become and gain experience as a registered nurse. While you are on your way to becoming a registered nurse, it will be beneficial to take as many courses in forensic science and nursing as possible. Different courses will be available depending upon the school you choose. It is recommended that you consider which course there schools offer before hand as the choices and quality of their course offerings will vary. Attend your chosen college or university and complete your RN degree. This will normally take 2-4 years depending if you decide to get your associates or bachelor degrees. Such degrees offered are normally associates of science in nursing (BSN), associates of science in nursing (BSN), or register in an RN program. Also, you will be required to pass your NCLE exam to gain your license and begin working as a registered nurse. Once you have graduated and accumulate a few years as an RN, you will then have to start specializing in the various forensic nursing fields. Such fields include courses in forensic clinical nursing, correctional nursing, forensic investigation, forensic psychiatric nursing, forensic gerontology, death investigation, sexual assault examination and legal forensics. When you have the appropriate experience working as a registered nurse and have gained knowledge within the previously mentioned fields, you will need to earn your certification that demonstrates this knowledge and commitment to the forensic nursing field. Such certifications include the FNCB, the IAFN, SANE-A and SANE-P certifications and the forensic nurse specialist certification from the American Institute of Health Care Professionals, Inc.

It is a difficult and long road to get into the forensic nursing field however it is a rewarding and interesting profession. As the demand for forensic nursing increases, the salary and benefits for this profession will rise. Currently, forensic nurses can make anywhere between $25-$60 per hour depending upon that persons experience and employer. Many forensic nurses continue to work as registered nurses on a full time bases. This usually is accompanied with an on call forensic nursing status which is paid 1 ½ ties their base pay rate. Whether you are currently working as a registered nurse or looking to gain entry into this field, forensic nursing may provide you with that step up in your career that you have been looking for.

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