Becoming a professional forensic nurse gives many people a rewarding job in administering quality health care while expanding their duties into the specialized field of forensics. From evidence collection to providing testimonials, forensic nurses have interesting job roles where they treat victims of assaults, traumas, neglect, and interpersonal violence. In addition, they also collect important physical evidence from the incident that can later be used in a court of law to prosecute the offenders, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This nursing profession is an extremely broad medical field, and you truly have choices regarding the type of nursing career you want to specialize in as you become a forensic nurse. Read below to find out the basic duties of a forensic nurse.
Duties of a Forensic Nurse
Forensic nurses have a myriad of duties when treating victims of assault or intentional injury. Most of your duties will be based on the work environment you are in and the organization or medical facility that employed you. Below is listed some of the duties you may have.
Victims of violence from different types of assaults or who have experienced neglect need specialized care that other patients suffering from illness or accidental injury do not need. A forensic nurse treats victims of violence and neglect to give them the medical care that they need to recover from wounds, broken bones, sexual assault or other types of injuries. The elderly, adults and children who experience these traumas are all treated by forensic nurses. Compassion and communication are important skills you will need for this duty.
After a forensic nurse treats a victim, the nurse also has to gather important evidence left on the victim that could be used in investigating a perpetrated crime or will be used later to prosecute a defender. The nurse will also evaluate the injury, identify what caused the injury and document all findings, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.
Some forensic nurses also have duties in a coroner’s office or at the scene of a crime as death investigators. When at a scene, the nurse will collect and document evidence for law enforcement to use in their investigation.
Appearing in court is another specific duty for forensic nurses. The nurse will have to testify in a court of law regarding the injuries that the victim was treated for under their care. The nurse will give their expert knowledge regarding the types of injuries the victim sustained and give answers regarding the documentation and photographs of the injuries. Preserving evidence for prosecutors and law enforcement is another part of the nurse’s duties.
Not all job duties for forensic nurses involve working in a hospital or coroner’s office. Some forensic nurses work for government organizations and trauma centers in outreach programs, according to the University of Mary. The nurse may refer the victim to emergency housing to get them out of a domestic situation; to a substance abuse agency to deal with drug problems; or to a mental health facility if the victim may be intentionally hurting themselves, other people, or have thoughts of suicide.
How to Become a Forensic Nurse
If you are interested in becoming a forensic nurse, you will need to pursue a nursing education while specializing in areas such as sexual assault examiner coursework that will prepare you for a career in this profession. Once you have obtained a bachelor’s degree from an accredited nursing school, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam for certification as a registered nurse then meet all the requirements for certification from the International Association of Forensic Nurses. For people who want to become forensic nurses and work in a coroner’s office as a death investigator, you will need to have a master’s degree or Ph.D.
Although currently there is no wage or job growth information reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics since this is a new career introduced in 1996, you may earn the same salary as a registered nurse, which is $64,000 annually. The salary that you could make as a forensic nurse will depend on the specific job role you have, the place where you are working, and the types of job duties that you have.