Think all nursing professions are the same? Do you imagine your life as a nurse as being one wandering the brightly lit hallways of hospitals, private practices or nursing homes? Then you should get ready to have your mind blown!
The nursing profession is just as varied and unique as the patients that come through the hospital doors. While traditional nursing jobs, such as those in hospital and doctor’s offices are the most popular, this are some specialty positions available to licensed nurses.
If you’re searching for a unique nursing job, which combines your love of caring for patients with your desire to make a difference in the lives of others, then you should consider a position as a forensic nurse.
Forensic nursing is a unique opportunity to combine your love of healthcare and criminal justice. While this position may not be ideal for every aspiring nurse, those who desire something different in their career should continue reading. The following information outlines what it’s like to be a forensic nurse as well as explicit training and job requirements. Afterwards, you’ll hold a strong understanding of this in-demand and unique nursing career option.
What is a Forensic Nurse? Investigating Health and Justice
In the most simplified definition, forensic nurses are licensed professionals who work directly with crime victims to collect medical evidence. This evidence is commonly used as evidence in judicial trials and forensic nurses may also be called upon to provide expert testimony in court cases.
As one of the most unique nursing specialties, forensic nurses blend the disciplines from multiple worlds, which include nursing, legal and science. While it’s easy to assume that this position is simply one that requires emotional counseling of crime victims, the International Association of Forensic Nurses, or IAFN, perform far more tasks than simply addressing victim emotional and physical needs.
Forensic nurses play a direct role in not only collecting physical evidence, but doing so in a standardized manner so that the evidence is acceptable in a court of law. Along with collecting evidence, these professionals will likely provide explicit medical testimony during a court case and work directly with legal professionals, such as lawyers and detectives.
Therefore, it’s easy to see that a forensic nurse must be able to not only provide victims with thorough physical and emotional care, but also excel in communication, assessments and be able to accurately and efficiently document their findings.
In the professional world, forensic nurses work in a variety of settings. Some of the most common employment options for this nursing specialty include government agencies, coroner’s offices, psychiatric institutions and in anti-violent community centers.
As you can see, a forensic nurse is responsible for wearing many hats in this profession. Throughout their career, a forensic nurse will likely work alongside sexual assault victims, domestic violence cases and victims of neglect and abuse. In psychiatric institutions, a forensic nurse will work alongside other healthcare professionals who specialize in the mentally handicap and those who suffer from a variety of mental health issues.
Essentially, the cornerstone of this profession is bridging the gap between medicine and law.
How Much do Forensic Nurses Make? Salary Range Review
Because forensic nursing is a relatively new nursing specialty, and because where and how these nurses work can greatly vary, the average annual salary can also dramatically vary. As with almost any other professional career, the geographic location of your employment directly impacts your average pay scale.
If your employer requires on-call availability, it’s important to discuss how this impacts your salary expectations. Never agree to work as an on-call forensic nurse without fully understanding how this role is compensated.
Considering this, the average compensation for a forensic nurse in the United States can vary from just under $50,000 to over $102,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. While this can vary based on where you’re employed, a clear indicator of average income is to investigate the average hourly wage for Registered Nurses in your state.
While this can greatly vary, the average wage for a Registered Nurse working in a hospital setting translates to just over $32 per hour, or $68,000 per year. The highest paying states in America for forensic nurses include the following:
- California – $90,860
- Massachusetts – $86,810
- Hawaii – $83,950
- Alaska – $82,080
- Nevada – $77,840
Forensic Nursing Career Outlook for 2012-2025
As with any nursing discipline, the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts that this career is expected to grow in demand throughout the United States. This is primarily due to the aging Baby Boomer generation, as well as the increased criminal justice field.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensic nursing is expected to grow by 16 percent throughout 2025, which is substantially faster and greater than almost any other job category. Much of this growth is expected to happen in states with an older population. For example, throughout this time period, a report done in 2014 finds that states in South and West portions of the United States are expected to experience the greatest demand for forensic nurses, or Registered Nurses.
How To Become a Forensic Nurse – Essential Guidelines
Because forensic nursing is a combination of medical and legal specializations, the educational pathway is far more complex and demanding than a standard Registered Nurse career path.
The first step is to earn your degree in nursing from an accredited school. Next, you should prepare for and pass your states NCLEX licensing examination, which is a national requirement. Afterwards, focus on gaining experience in a clinical setting. Typically, employers prefer a forensic nurse who has experience in medical-surgical settings or in a specialty, such as psychiatric nursing.
As you continue to gain experience, you should begin investigating your advanced educational requirements. Generally, a forensic nurse should obtain a forensic nursing certification, which are offered at universities throughout the country. Lastly, you need to obtain an advanced degree. The most common options include a master’s or doctoral degree in forensic nursing. These degree programs provide the additional training and experience you’ll need to successfully perform the duties of this dynamic and complex profession.