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What is Forensic Nursing?

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forensic nurse

If you find solving mysteries challenging and you`re interested in victim advocacy then consider the challenging field of forensic nursing. Forensic nurses may be called to a crime scene or accident to work with detectives, collect evidence, and take tissue and blood samples. Forensic nurses treat survivors of assaults or violent accidents, and victims of negligence, abuse, or violent crimes. The job is fast-paced and exciting, with real issues at stake.

Forensic Nurses can pursue a wide array of exciting career opportunities, including positions in medical examiners` offices, law enforcement agencies, social service agencies, and specialized hospital units. Forensic nurses may work with detectives and treat survivors of assaults or accidents, and victims of abuse or crimes.

The History of Forensic Nursing

Forensic Nursing is a relatively new field, however, nurses have worked with sexual assault and abuse cases now for many years. The term "Forensic Nursing" was first coined in the early 1990`s, 1992 to be exact, when a group of 70 nurses gathered for the first national convention of sexual assault nurses. Nurses in this field found that they had a lot in common, and were eager to share more of their knowledge with one another. Shortly after this convention, the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IFAN) was formed. In 1995, Forensic Nursing was first recognized by the American Nurses Association in 1995 as being a specialty of nursing.

The Role of the Forensic Nurse

Forensic Nurses work with law enforcement to collect evidence at crime and accident scenes. Care for survivors of assaults or violent accidents, and victims of negligence, abuse, or violent crimes. Forensic nurses may identify injuries and/or death and their causes, preserve and document the chain of custody, and refer victims for appropriate follow-up care.

Forensic Nurses frequently appear as expert witnesses and fact witnesses during trials. Expert witnesses are allowed to give their opinion, while fact witnesses may only state facts as related to the case. A judge will determine whether the forensics nurse is to serve as an expert or fact witness. Forensic nurses are often used in trials to present information in an objective way; they are there not to support either the victim or the accused, but rather to present the facts of an investigation.

Specialty areas within forensic nursing include Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Forensic Nurse Investigator, Nurse Coroner/Death Investigator, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Legal Nurse Consultant, Forensic Gerontology Specialist, Forensic Psychiatric Nurse, and Correctional Nursing Specialist.

How to Become a Forensic Nurse

Registered Nurses interested in the specialty practice of Forensic Nursing should complete an accredited education program that complies with the standards of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IFAN) such as the online Forensic Nursing Certificate program offered by Kaplan University.

Forensic Nursing Education Courses May Include:

  • Forensic Physical Assessment and Evidence Collection
  • Forensic Psychological Assessment, Interview, Report Writing
  • Death Investigation
  • The Courtroom Experience
  • Crisis Intervention and the Planning and Implementation of Follow-Up Care

In addition to courses such as those mentioned above, Forensic Nurses also learn how to use digital cameras, specialized microscopes, and other high-tech gadgets used by their specialty.


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