Forensic nursing, literally meaning nursing as it pertains to the law, combines the health care industry with the judicial system. It is a fairly new specialty of nursing that involves providing care to victims of crime and patients within the prison system. Forensic nurses not only provide direct care to victims, but also collect evidence for law enforcement agencies. The term ‘forensic nursing’ was coined in 1992 and the American Nurses Association officially recognized the field beginning in 1995. The professional organization for forensic nursing is the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). IAFN has more than 2,400 in the United States and abroad.
Within the nursing profession, forensic nursing is one of the most diverse groups of clinicians. The largest specialty area is Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE. These professionals address sexual assault cases of both adult and child victims and conduct the majority of sexual assault examinations in the U.S. Other specialty areas include Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Forensic Nurse Investigator, Nurse Coroner/Death Investigator, Legal Nurse Consultant, Forensic Psychiatric Nurse, Correctional Nursing Specialist and Forensic Gerontology Specialist.
Other roles that forensic nursing covers include working with victims of domestic violence, child and elder abuse and psychological abuse. Some forensic nurses examine victims of fatal or near-fatal traumas. Others work as death investigators, visiting crime or accident scenes to collect evidence and assist in recovering bodies, researching medical records and communicating with law officers and families. Often a forensic nurse will provide expert testimony in court.
Because forensic nursing is a relatively new profession and a fast-growing specialty, there are many opportunities available for both recent graduates and experienced nurses. There is an increasing demand for nurses with the specialized skills required of forensic nursing. Today forensic nurses are being incorporated into the emergency room setting. Also, schools are beginning to implement forensic nursing programs, offering upper level degrees that specialize in the field.
If you want to start a career in forensic, you need a nursing degree. Consider the online forensic nursing certificate from Kaplan University.