5 Must-Know Facts About Forensic Nursing

5 Important Forensic Nursing Facts

  • Becoming a Forensic Nurse
  • Specializing as a SANE
  • Practice Sites
  • Master’s Degree in Forensic Nursing
  • Forensic Nurses are Appreciated

What is forensic nursing? Few nursing students know how to become a forensic nurse or what classes to take to achieve this career. Some students have never even heard of this specialty. If you’re curious about how to combine an interest in legal matters with your passion for healthcare, keep reading to learn five important facts about forensic nursing.

1. Becoming a Forensic Nurse

The most important fact to know about forensic nursing is that there’s no clear entryway into this profession. Any nurse, including Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN), can work in a forensic nursing capacity. The true barrier is in convincing employers of the need to hire a forensic-specialty nurse. If you’re just beginning your nursing degree, seek out electives on healthcare policy and legal matters. You might even consider a minor in criminal justice.

2. Specializing as a SANE

Forensic nurses can earn a number of specializations and certifications. The most common is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) designation. To obtain SANE certification, you must practice as a Registered Nurse (RN) for two years in an area of care that teaches advanced assessment skills. You must also pass a board certification and understand local and state laws. You can choose to specialize as a SANE-A, for adult patients, or SANE-P, for pediatric patients, nurse examiner. With either SANE certification, you’ll be qualified to guide victims of sexual crimes through post-crime physical examinations in a compassionate manner.

3. Practice Sites

Forensic nurses work in a surprising number of places. For example, trauma facilities prefer to hire certified forensic nurses to work with the families of potential organ donors. These nurses combine compassion with medical knowledge and a strong understanding of the law. Forensic nurses also work closely with the criminal justice and correctional systems; some prisons hire trained forensic nurses to conduct mental health examinations or fill in staffing gaps. Some nurses specialize their forensic investigations into the pediatric realm and assist victims of child abuse and neglect. This role requires strong mental resiliency. A few forensic nurses become legal consultants and specialize in providing expert testimony at criminal trials.

4. Master’s Degree in Forensic Nursing

You can advance your forensic nursing career by earning a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a graduate certificate with a focus in forensic nursing. This won’t expand your scope of practice, but it will signal to employers that you’re serious about your work. It will also make you a better witness in legal cases. Unlike traditional nursing programs, which tend to focus on clinical skills, graduate programs in forensic nursing teach a mixture of legal and nursing skills.

5. Forensic Nurses are Appreciated

Former Vice President Joe Biden has been quoted saying there should be a forensic nurse in every emergency room, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses. He has a long-standing appreciation of nurses stemming from the medical tragedies his family has suffered, including the untimely death of his son to brain cancer. Although he’s never personally needed help from a forensic nurse, he understands how important these professionals are, especially for crime victims.

Related Resource: Top 10 Highest Paying Careers For Nurses

The best part about forensic nursing is that you can pursue this specialization without limiting your career options. If you find that the fact-heavy approach of forensic nursing isn’t the right field for you, it’s easy to transition back to bedside work.