Forensic nurses assist law enforcement agencies in investigations by gathering physical evidence from victims. A forensic nurse must already be licensed and certified as a registered nurse and then complete additional training. Training is usually at the graduate level and may be part of a master's degree program.
Forensic nurses examine trauma victims to determine whether their wounds resulted from some form of abuse or neglect. Forensic nurses often work on cases of suspected sexual assault, child abuse or elder abuse. After conducting investigations, they report their findings to law enforcement agencies. Most are registered nurses who hold graduate degrees or certificates in the field of forensic nursing.
|Required Education||Nursing degree, additional education in forensic nursing|
|Other Requirements||State licensure|
|Projected Job Growth (2019-2029)*||7% for all registered nurses|
|Mean Salary (2020)*||$80,010 annually for all registered nurses|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Job Outlook for Forensic Nursing
Although the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not have exact information on the forensic nurse specialty, it projects jobs for all registered nurses will increase by 7% from 2019-2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). The BLS predicted the increase due to rapidly growing populations in need of medical care. People are living longer, which means more nurses will be needed to deal with elderly patient care.
The BLS indicated that in May 2020, registered nurses earned a mean hourly salary of $38.47. During that same year, the BLS also showed that the states paying registered nurses the highest annual average salaries included California, Hawaii, District of Columbia, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Alaska.
Job Description for Forensic Nursing
Forensic nurses help law enforcement agencies identify victims of assault, abuse and neglect. Information from the BLS stated that forensic nurses conduct objective investigations that involve questioning victims, inspecting wounds, examining corpses and collaborating with law enforcement. To help law enforcement agents build cases against suspected criminals, forensic nurses gather evidence, which includes taking photos of patient injuries or collecting samples of human tissue and bodily fluids. As expert witnesses in court trials, forensic nurses also explain their findings to jury members.
Education Requirements for Forensic Nursing
Before specializing in forensic nursing, individuals must first complete an undergraduate nursing degree program. Since forensic nursing degree and certificate programs are graduate-level, individuals will most likely need to complete a bachelor's degree program in nursing instead of an associate's degree program. Common courses in nursing degree programs include health assessment, clinical care nursing, healthcare management, leadership and community health. All registered nurses in the U.S. and its territories are required to pass the National Council Licensure Examination and maintain valid licensing.
Nurses can choose between completing a certificate program or a master's degree program in forensic nursing. Certificate programs can be completed in a year or less and include coursework such as trauma and assault assessment, forensic nursing theory, domestic violence, documentation procedures and evidence collection methodologies. Master's degree programs include many of these courses, but most students are also required to participate in practical or clinical experiences through which they work in the field with other forensic nursing experts.
Registered nurses can expect much faster job growth than the job market as a whole. Their mean salary is about $80,000.