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What Are the Requirements for Becoming a Forensic Nurse?

As a forensic nurse, you will help assault victims by gently collecting evidence without inducing further trauma. It takes special education and training to perform these duties with professionalism and empathy. Read on to learn what type of education, training and certification you need to work as a forensic nurse.

Forensic Nurses at Work

If you choose to become a forensic nurse, you might find employment in a hospital, clinic or other medical facility. Your duties could include assisting victims who have experienced assault, neglect or abuse. Specialized training can help you understand how to identify types of injuries and assess the extent of damage to a patient's body. You'll likely follow chain of evidence procedures to collect evidence and document the incident. Additional duties might include collecting evidence from alleged perpetrators and testifying in courtroom procedures.

Important Facts About Forensic Nurses

Median Salary (2020) $75,330 (for all registered nurses)
Job Outlook (2019-2029) 7% growth (for all registered nurses)
Key Skills Situational awareness, critical thinking, good judgment and decision making, clear oral and written communication, reading comprehension, customer service oriented
Similar Occupations Acute care nurses, critical care nurses, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, emergency medical technicians

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Training

Forensic nursing programs are available at the undergraduate and master's degree level. Undergraduate programs offer a certificate in forensic nursing for those who already hold an R.N. license. At the graduate level, along with advanced studies in nursing, forensic programs can teach you about perpetrator and victim interview methods and death investigation procedures. You also might learn to recognize signs of elder and child abuse. Some programs include clinical rotations, which could allow you to hone your skills in places like correctional institutions, mental health clinics and women's health services facilities. In order to enroll in a master's program in forensic nursing, students usually must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and a registered nurse license.

Certification for Forensic Nurses

There are three types of certification offered by the Commission for Forensic Nursing Certification (CFNC), affiliated with the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). The highest level of certification is the portfolio in Advanced Forensic Nursing, which requires a portfolio assessment rather than an exam. You can also take a certification exam to obtain a SANE-A certification to become a sexual assault nurse adult/adolescent examiner or a SANE-P for work with pediatric victims. Some of the qualifications to take the certification exams include:

  • An unrestricted and active nursing license in the U.S.
  • At least 40 hours of sexual assault coursework
  • A minimum of 2 years of experience in nursing practice
  • Practical, supervised experience in a sexual assault nurse examiner capacity

Those interested in the SANE-P certification may need to have more experience and classroom time than those seeking the SANE-A certification. The FNCB also offers training and study guides to help you prepare for the exams. Certification lasts for three years.