What is a Forensic Nurse?

Becoming a forensic nurse means entering a relatively new field of health care in which professionals are highly sought-after. The industry is exciting and challenging as it requires a great deal of knowledge and strong attention to detail. Forensic nursing is used in public and legal proceedings, as well as investigation of mortality and morbidity in different settings. It is closely tied to criminal justice and requires extensive expertise and proficiency in a wide range of health-related issues.


The responsibilities of forensic nurses include collection of data from survivors, perpetrators, fact witnesses who observed a violent crime, and expert witnesses who are willing to present their opinions. Forensic nurses serve as a link between the legal and health care systems by providing and preserving the evidence that may be crucial to determine the legal outcome for criminal justice cases. Forensic nursing consists of several subspecialties including sexual assaults, death investigations, psychiatric feedback and medical consultations.

Specialty Programs

Licensed nurses can further advance their education in forensics by attending subspecialty classes and obtaining one of the following credentials:

  • Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE)
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)
  • Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE)
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician (SANC)
  • Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE)

These master programs are structured to provide both nurses and clinicians with instructions and knowledge on collection of evidence and its proper interpretation for the legal system. These programs require courses consisting of theory and a specific number of hands-on training hours.

Additional and Continuing Education

Forensic curriculums focus on perpetrator theory, victimology, criminology and interpersonal violence. Other then practical education under the guidance of an experienced physician or a nurse, there are additional ways to obtain proper training:

  • Certification programs offered by various universities.
  • Continuing education courses required for renewing state licensure.
  • Elective courses offered to undergraduates and graduates.
  • Formal graduate study programs to acquire Master of Science-Nursing degree (Clinical internships in crime laboratories and similar settings are included within the curriculum.)

Specialty Roles

As the field of forensic nursing is relatively unpaved, the role of any existing nurse of forensics is especially vital in educating and informing potential employers regarding the valuable skills of forensic nurses and the occupation in general. Through networking with other specialists, such as medical examiners, crime scene technicians and attorneys, forensic nurses are establishing a professional identity. Forensic licensed nurses are assuming a variet of roles in risk management, investigations, litigations and psychiatry. They are also able to secure positions in various health care branches such as domestic violence, bioterrorism, international investigations and correctional nursing.

The occupation of forensic nursing comes with a tremendous responsibility. There are many institutions which house different populations and age groups. The staffing needs of these institutions are typically of immediate nature and professionals with great education, credentials and clinical practical knowledge are highly sought-after. The profession requires strong attention to detail, resilient personality and the ability to investigate under various circumstances. Forensic nurses must meet legal requirements while providing the highest standards of principles and professionalism. Forensic nurses are highly regarded experts who recognize the importance of providing accurate information and professional support to the entire team of forensic authorities.