Forensic Nurse – Eligibility, Courses, Procedure, Salary, and Career Outlook

Professional nurses who provide special care to the victims of violence and abuse like sexual assault, intimate partner violence, accidental injuries, and death are known as forensic nurses. They are trained for medical evidence collection and the criminal justice system. Skills and traits that are must for forensic nursing are fast paced, structured, patient-facing, research oriented, emotional stability, compassion, patience, critical thinking, etc. If you are an aspirant for this job and want to know about its eligibility, courses, procedure, salary, career outlook, and other basic information, go through this article.


If you wish to be in this profession, you must fulfill the following forensic nursing requirements

  • Must have an active registered license within a state or territory of the United States or equivalent certification in another country.
  • At least 2 years of practice as a registered nurse.
  • Have a degree (master’s, postgraduate certificate, or doctoral degree) in nursing or forensic nursing.
  • A minimum of 2,000 practice hours in a specialty field of forensic nursing within the last 3 years.
  • Completion of a minimum of 30 continuing education hours in the specialty area of forensic nursing in the last 3 years.
  • Meet two additional professional development categories, to be chosen from the following list –
    -Academic Credits
    -Publication or Research
    -Professional service

Stepwise Procedure to Become a Forensic Nurse

Step 1 – Complete Bachelor’s Degree

4-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program is aimed to make the graduates ready for post-baccalaureate courses and inculcate critical thinking, situational analysis, and clinical evaluation skills in the aspirants. You can complete the BSN program in pathophysiology, clinical nutrition, adult and pediatric health patterns, pharmacology, and physical assessment. Participation in clinical lab program and complete rotations at local medical facilities make you acquainted with many nursing specialties like surgical nursing, critical care, obstetrics, psychiatry, pediatrics, and community health.

Step 2 – Registered Nursing Credential

Every state of the U.S. requires aspirants to clear the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), held and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN). Candidates graduated from an accredited nursing program and fulfilling all the other specific state requirements are eligible to sit for this exam.

Step 3 – Post-Graduate Program

You can get trained in forensic nursing in two ways. Registered nurses can either undergo a shorter post-graduate certificate program in forensic nursing or can opt for a 2-year Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) program with insistence in forensics. Certificate programs in forensic nursing are also available in the continuing education post-graduate departments of various nursing schools. These programs include short lectures, several semesters of class work and a practicum. After completion of the coursework, you can assess injuries, do clinical examinations of the traumas, acknowledge abuse and neglect, collaborate with the imposition of law and react effectively in the case of a disaster.

Forensic nursing graduate programs (i.e. MSN) is designed to make practicing nurses ready for clinical roles in forensics, such as working as a legal nursing consultant, death investigator, nurse coroner or forensic psychiatric nurse. Once this degree program gets completed, the candidates are prepared to work snugly within the legal system, encourage health care and safety in the community, recognize and help prevent domestic abuse, aid in legal investigations and demonstrate leading documentation and analysis skills.

Step 4 – Employment

Innumerable job options are evolving rapidly in forensic nursing. Nurses, who want to specialize in forensics, might practice in law enforcement, corrections or with a mortuary, attorney’s office or emergency room. Besides all these, they can also work as expert witnesses. Basic duties of a forensic nurse may comprise evidence collection, autopsy assistance, victim assessment and treatment, criminal rehabilitation, drug tampering analysis or development of violence prevention programs.

Step 5 – Continuing Education and Certification Renewal

After meeting all the continuing education requirements, forensic nurses who want to gain SANE-A or SANE-P certification are supposed to continue their education regularly, so that they can renew the certification. Continuing education may be executed via seminars, webinars or courses. Continuing education keeps the forensic nurses stay updated. If you join a professional organization such as IAFN, you get the chance to continue education and other benefits like admittance to online publications, networking opportunities and listing in professional directories.

Forensic Nursing Courses

1. Basics of Forensic Nurses

Students who undergo the fundamental nursing courses get the chance to explore many specialty areas within the discipline, including clinical forensic nursing, death investigation, correctional nursing, forensic mental health, and forensic photography. Many times, the course concentrates on the patient and the symptoms, the patient shows while healing process. Along with this, scientific, legal and ethical aspects of the profession are covered.

2. Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

This course consists of the topics such as forensic nursing terminology, specimen collection, and preservation, wound identification and injury assessment. Besides this, candidates learn the legal processes to prepare and present proof in court, and to document the proof. Sexual assault victim identification and sexual assault repercussions are other important topics that are taught.

3. Theories of Violence

In this course, students analyze the theories about the origin and evolution of violence. This course emphasizes on critical thinking. Case studies constituting trauma, assault, mass casualties, domestic violence, injuries, physical and sexual abuse and death also form a major part of this program. Other than this, information about criminal motivation, victim responses, and social patterns are also included in the coursework.

4. Forensic Pathology

This course teaches evidence management techniques that are a must to assure that it is presented in the court in a proper manner. Investigation techniques, essentials to question suspects and minimize the suspect list, are also studied. In order to make students familiar with the medical and legal aspects of the crimes and to identify personality and mental characteristics of the criminals, they are given case studies.

5. Criminal Law and the Courts

Students practice gathering, analyzing and presenting proof to judges, lawyers, and juries in this course of forensic nursing. They are also trained to examine the proper techniques for gathering perpetrator and forensic evidence, consisting evidence testing, and proper chain of custody management. Apart from this, they are also directed to identify the kinds of evidence. For instance, hair and fiber or DNA examination, and crime types like cyber-crime and arson.

Working Environment for Forensic Nurses

Forensic nurses need to deal with the traumatized patients who are victims of rape, sexual assault, domestic violence, pediatric trauma, and other brutal and violent trauma. Though most of the times they work in hospitals but trips to police station, courts, and prisons are also common.

Forensic Nurse Salary

As per, the average salary of the forensic nurses was approximately $54,000 (as of Feb 25, 2016). The average salaries for these professionals for the job postings at nation level and in the U.S. were same.

Average Salary of Professionals with Related Job Titles

Therapeutic Support Specialist$38,000
Human Service Coordinator Supervisor$53,000
Psych MR Nurse$63,000
Human Service Coordination$43,000
Case Manager Adult$29,000
Kcpc Inpatient RN$49,000
Human Service Coordinator$48,000
Security Therapy Aide$53,000
Registered Mental Health Nurse$24,000
Adult Case Manager$36,000
Case Manager Supervisor$50,000
Milieu Therapist$30,000
Psychiatric MR Nurse$61,000
Psychiatric Security Attendant$35,000
Service Coordinator Supervisor$48,000

Information Source – (as of Feb 25, 2016)

Psych MR Nurse earned the highest salary, i.e. $63,000 per annum. Psychiatric MR Nurse made an annual salary of $61,000. Registered Mental Health Nurse made $24,000 per year.

Job Outlook

As per the reports of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), forensic nurses will witness a growth of 19% in the jobs between 2012 and 2022. This growth is attributed to the increasing population and their need for medical care. The registered nurses who have a bachelor’s degree will have better job opportunities than those without it. You can take other positions like researcher, death investigator, forensic mental health consultant or legal nurse consultant.

Schools Offering Forensic Nursing Courses

1. Johns Hopkins University
Address – Baltimore, MD 21218
Contact no. – 410-516-8000
Official Website

2. University of Pennsylvania
Address – Philadelphia, PA 19104
Contact no. – (215) 898 – 5000
Official Website

3. Boston College
Address – 140 Commonwealth Avenue, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
Contact no. – 617–552-8000
Official Website

4. The University of Illinois, Chicago
Address – 1200 West Harrison Street, Chicago, IL 60607
Contact no. – 312–996–7000
Official Website

5. University of Pittsburgh, School of Nursing
Address – 3500 Victoria Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15261
Contact no. – 412–624-4586
Official Website

6. University of Colorado, Colorado Springs
Address – 1420 Austin Bluffs Parkway, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
Contact no. – 719–255-8227
Official Website

7. Wallace Community College
Address – 1141 Wallace Drive, Dothan, AL 36303
Contact no. – 334–983-3521
Official Website

8. Mesa Community College
Address – 1833 West Southern Avenue, AZ 85202
Contact no. – 480–461-7000
Official Website

9. Pima Community College
Address – 4905 East Broadway Boulevard, Tucson, AZ 85709-1010
Contact no. – 520–206-4500
Official Website

10. Pulaski Technical College
Address – 3000 West Scenic Drive, North Little Rock, AR 72118
Contact no. – 501–812-2200
Official Website

11. Alliant International University
Address – 10455, Pomerado Road, San Diego, CA 92131
Contact no. – 866-825-5426
Official Website

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