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Forensic Nursing: A Challenging Yet Rewarding Career Path

For many aspiring young people, careers in healthcare are appealing for many, many reasons.

The first is often the pure feeling of knowing you’re helping someone every single day of your life, but there are also secondary factors like good money and a lot of job security.

With those three things in mind, many other people wisely plan to have careers, at least, somewhat related to the medical field, as we, as a people, will always need healthcare, so jobs will always be there. 

For youngsters, or adults looking to make a career change, who are interested in law and criminal justice, the emerging field of forensic nursing bridges the two, requiring a knowledge of a courtroom and an operating room.

Here is a closer look at the field of forensic nursing:

What is Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing, in a nutshell, is the practice of combining healthcare and law, then utilizing healthcare occurrences to help determine what did or did not happen during a given instance that is being investigated by police or other government entities.

From the very serious, like violence and rape victims, to the not so serious, yet very important like toxicology reports, forensic nurses are experts in both caring for these victims’ mental health, and collecting and analyzing evidence to be shared in courts of law. 

What Skills Do I Need?

The skill set of the forensic nurse is very different from that of other nurses, or of other people in a forensics team.

Where most nurses must know how to properly identify injuries so they can treat those injuries, forensic nurses must know how to identify them in order to determine the cause, relevant to a crime (or something being investigated as a crime that may turn out to be an accident).

A stellar understanding of courtroom proceedings is important, too, as many forensic nurses will be asked to testify as professional witnesses, sharing their interpretations of a given person’s injuries, or DNA, etc.

In order to properly discuss injuries/situations with a victim, forensic nurses should also possess therapeutic communication in order to gain trust and ultimately get to the bottom of any situation that involves a victim.

How Do I Get Qualified?

The first step is to become a registered nurse.

For students with the capacity to attend college full-time, there are many “normal” programs to learn the tools of the trade and prepare you for the RN exam, called the NCLEX.

Taking courses in forensics alongside those required nursing courses will definitely put you ahead of the game when applying for forensic nursing jobs, but a masters in forensic nursing is also an option and a surefire way to land a job in the field. 

For current nurses looking for a change, applying for a master’s program in forensics is also the safest bet, but not a necessity.

There is on-the-job training available on the forensics side, if you show interest and an ability to learn quickly, this could be the route for you.

There are also other certifications, like the NCLEX, for forensics nurses, such as the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner cert, and many universities offer accredited programs specifically for aspiring forensic nurses. 

The Jobs

Forensic nursing, and nursing in general, is expected to be a growing field, as more victims are being treated at hospitals, and a desire for police departments to focus more on violent crimes.

Forensic nurses can work in a variety of jobs, but mostly are, indeed, either in a hospital or a law enforcement setting

 Forensic nurses outside of hospitals will most often find themselves working alongside coroners, medical examiners, and for attorneys.

Salaries for RNs, in general, are pretty competitive, at roughly $70,000 per year, and forensics nurses tend to get a bump of $5,000-$10,000 per year. 

With job availability, security, and pay all being added on top of the daily task of helping others, this rewarding career is a great option for anyone interested in the connection between healthcare and law enforcement.

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