How Do You Become a Forensic Nurse?

If you’re thinking about how to become a forensic nurse, it’s important to first understand the job duties of a forensic nurse. These professionals have a number of roles, including creating educational programs, identifying types of injuries such as exploitation, abuse, accident, neglect or trauma, collecting evidence such as tissue samples, blood and photographs, caring for victims of traumatic violence, providing consultation to victims and families, liaising with medical personnel and law enforcement, and acting as expert witnesses in courtrooms. Due to the nature of these tasks, the forensic nurse must be well-trained in health and law while also exhibiting compassion and empathy for their patients, according to Discover Nursing.

How to Become a Forensic Nurse

There are several different paths to become a forensic nurse. Some professionals began their careers by earning their associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), earning their registered nurse (RN) credential, gaining experience and specialized education, and achieving entry-level certification. However, others may begin by pushing their credentials and degree to a more advanced level in order to enhance their candidacy for salary and employment prospects.

Graduate from High School

Forensics nurses must earn a high school diploma or a GED. Those seeking a career in forensic nursing are advised to take courses in mathematics, anatomy, physics, biology and chemistry to enhance their college applications. Some students may choose to volunteer or participate in an internship through local programs at civic organizations, police departments or hospitals.

Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing Degree

Although some forensic nurses earn an associate’s degree before receiving their RN license, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree offers several benefits. First, BSN courses typically provider a wider variety of classes, including forensic approaches to domestic violence, courtroom testimony by a healthcare specialist and specialized instruction in forensic photography. Second, some agencies that provide certifications and licenses require that the candidates earn a minimum of a master’s degree, and a BSN often fulfills many of prerequisites needed before entering a graduate degree program.

Pass the NCLEX-RN Exam

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the NCLEX-RN exam. The requirements to sit for the exam vary by state, so candidates are urged to contact their local state board of nursing. This competitive exam consists of testing in four “client need categories,” including physiological integrity, psychosocial integrity, health promotion and maintenance, and safe and effective care management.

Gain Nursing Experience and Education in Forensic Nursing

Although you may wish to pursue graduate education right away, it may be more beneficial to gain experience as an RN and advanced your training in the specialized field of forensic nursing. Some schools provide extension programs in forensic nursing, online professional development courses, and certificates in forensic nursing.

Become Certified on a Professional Level

After you are certified and have forensic nursing experience, you may wish to pursue additional certification to enhance your employment prospects. For instance, forensic nurses may seek a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) certification in either pediatrics or adults and adolescents. To be eligible, applicants must be RNs with at least 40 hours of classroom instruction and two years of experience before passing an exam.

Related Resource: How Do You Specialize a Nursing Degree in Nephrology?

Finally, aspiring forensic nurses may pursue a master’s degree in forensic nursing in order to further their career prospects and salary possibilities. Regardless of the route taken to become a forensic nurse, this particular career, although sometimes difficult and stressful, is also exciting, rewarding, and one of the most unique in the industry.