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Forensic Nursing

What is Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing is a fairly new specialization which, according to the American Forensic Nurses, Inc. (AFN), is a "bridge between the criminal justice system and the health care system." Forensic nurses use their medical expertise to help with criminal investigations, including sexual assault cases and death investigations. They observe, collect, and preserve evidence, and are often called to testify in court. Forensics nurses work in emergency rooms and labs, as well as in areas such as organ and tissue donation, pediatrics, psychiatrics, correctional facilities, and schools.

What Should I Expect Working as a Forensics Nurse?

Working as a forensics nurse is likely to be fast-paced and research-driven. It can be emotionally demanding, since these nurses often work with the victims of sexual assault, homicide, and other crimes. According to Johnson & Johnson, some of the typical responsibilities of forensics nurses include collecting blood and tissue samples, measuring and taking photos to document wounds and other injuries, collecting evidence from bodies, and providing support to victims and their families.

What are the Education and Certification Requirements?

The first step to becoming a forensics nurse is to become a registered nurse. This can be done through completion of a diploma, associate's degree, or bachelor's degree nursing program. After graduation, one must pass the NCLEX-RN and apply for a license to practice.

After the initial nursing education is completed, an individual can obtain a forensics nursing education in a variety of ways. According to the AFN, this can be done through certification programs offered by universities, continuing education courses related to forensics, School of Nursing undergraduate or graduate forensics electives, and MSN programs related to forensics.

The International Association of Forensics Nurses (IAFN) requires a minimum of 2 years of registered nursing experience in order to take the forensics certification exam. There are two certifications available: Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner - Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A) and Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner - Pediatrics (SANE-P). In addition, the IAFN and the American Nurses Credentialing Center offer a certification via portfolio in Advanced Nursing Forensics (AFN-BC).

For the Advanced Nursing Forensics certification by portfolio option, the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) requires a graduate degree, 2,000 hours of experience working in forensics nursing, and 30 hours of continuing education in the past 3 years, in addition to the previously mentioned 2 years of experience as a registered nurse. Applicants must also fulfill the ANCC's professional development criteria. This certification must be renewed every 3 years.

What is the Average Salary of a Forensics Nurse?

Forensics nurse salaries vary depending on the location, employer, and the individual's experience and education. According to, the average salary for a forensics nurse is $75,000. According to the AFN, it is almost impossible provide an accurate estimate of compensation for forensics nurses.

What is the Job Outlook for Forensics Nursing?

The job outlook for registered nurses in general is excellent, with the BLS predicting 26% job growth between 2010 and 2020. The outlook for forensics nurses is unclear, but the specialization is fairly new, and likely to grow and expand.

Additional Resources

  • American Nurses Association: This is the official site of the American Nurses Association. This organization is the largest in the United States that is put together for nurses. On this site you will find careers and credentialing information, health care policy, occupational and environment information and nursing ethics.
  • Registered Nurses: This site links directly to the official entry in the Occupational Outlook Handbook as provided and put together by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the United States Department of Labor. On this page, you will find an extensive amount of information on the career of a registered nurse in general as well as more specific information on the various specialization options.
  • How to Become a Forensic Nurse
  • International Association of Forensic Nurses: This is the official site to the International Association of Forensic Nurses. On this site, you will find comprehensive information on the career of a forensic nurse as well as information on certification, education, resources and an option to become a member.
  • Forensic Psychiatric Nurses Council: This site provides you with questions and answers as to what to expect from the Forensic Psychiatric Nurses Council. You also have information on publications, continuing education and job postings.
  • Journal of Forensic Nursing: This links to the Journal of Forensic Nursing and offers you the option of subscribing to the relative journal.
  • Forensic Nursing Certificate: This site provides you with information on what to expect when enrolling in an online forensic nursing program as offered at the University of California in Riverside.
  • Forensic Nursing: This link provides you with information on a forensic nursing program that is offered by Boston College. This site gives you information on what to expect when enrolling in this type of program.