Job Requirements and Education for a Forensic Nurse
The American Nursing Association (ANA) recently recognized forensic nursing as a valid area of specialization. Forensic nurses, unlike other types of nurses, look for evidence that can be presented in a court of law. In some cases, a forensic nurse must act against his or her instincts in order to preserve evidence. For example, if a child came into a hospital with a serious wound, a forensic nurse examiner would examine the wound carefully to look for evidence of assault before washing it out. As a forensic nurse examiner you will receive higher pay than an RN but will also have greater responsibilities. You will also need specialized forensic nurse education and training before you can enter this field.
You will need to become an RN (Registered Nurse) before you can begin your forensic nurse education. You can become an RN if you have an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). You will then need to pass an exam called the NCLEX-RN. Some hospitals may also offer diplomas or special RN to BSN programs for those who wish to further their education. Becoming an RN is only the first step, however. You will need some experience in the field as well as a certification or advanced degree if you wish to become a forensic nurse examiner.
The number of schools that offer a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a specialization in forensic nursing is growing every year. John Hopkins University and Boston College are two of the top nursing schools in the country and both of them offer forensic nursing courses. An MSN will generally take two years to complete, though times may vary depending on the program. You can also seek one of several certifications, including the SANE (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner) or CFN (Certified Forensic Nurse). As you can see, forensic nurse education can take several different forms.
Forensic nursing is a relatively new field, so there is no standard certification. Many nurses choose to get the CFN designator from the American College of Forensic Examiners International (ACFEI). To get this certification, you will need to have 3 years of experience as an RN, be a member of ACFEI in good standing, complete a forensic nursing course (such as ACFEI’s Introduction to Forensic Nursing), provide two references, and validate your forensic nurse competency. Although requirements vary between certifications, you can expect to see similar criteria. After certification, you will be qualified to work as a forensic nurse.