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What Is a Medical Examiner Nurse?

Medical examiner nurses are a unique blend of nurse, crime scene investigator, and legal expert. Other names for this career are nurse coroner, deputy coroner, nurse death investigator, and forensic nurse investigator. Read on to learn about the career overview, job duties and education requirements.

Career Overview

Medical examiner nurses are forensic nurses who specialize in the investigation of unexpected deaths. Your role is to serve the public in confidentially investigating and collecting scientific evidence in collaboration with law enforcement. In addition to evidence collection, your work involves careful documentation. You rely on your nursing expertise while exercising leadership and compassion for the victims and families. You may also play a role as an educator to help prevent death due to violence.

Important Facts About Medical Examiner Nurses

Mean Salary (2019) $91,765 (for all forensic nurses)*
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 15% growth (for all registered nurses)**
Key Skills Compassion, emotional stability, clear written and verbal communication, organization, physical stamina, critical thinking and problem solving ability, attention to detail
Similar Occupations Physicians assistants, EMTs, paramedics, dental hygienists, licensed practical nurses, licensed vocational nurses, nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, nurse practitioners

Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties and Responsibilities

As a medical nurse examiner, you may pronounce death and help determine its time and causes. Notification of the next of kin may be one of your roles. When you arrive at the scene, you may take photographs, examine the body, and take tissue and blood samples while interviewing witnesses and family members. You may work with crime scene detectives, making detailed notes about what you see at the scene of the crime. You may arrange for pick-up of the body for transport to the morgue and later assist the pathologist in performing the autopsy. If the deceased is an organ donor, you arrange for organ harvesting when possible. Also, you must be prepared to testify in court as an expert witness.

Education and Training

Experienced registered nurses (RNs) may become medical examiner nurses. Experience as an RN in an intensive care unit or emergency room provides good preparation for the career. There are a variety of ways you can receive specialized forensic nursing training, including earning continuing education credits. Selecting forensic nursing electives during your undergraduate or graduate nursing program is another approach. You may also select an Advanced Practice in Forensic Nursing Certificate program for RNs, some of which are available online. Finally, master's and doctoral nursing programs are available with a forensic nursing specialization. Generally, coursework covers topics that include:

  • Forensic toxicology
  • Victimology
  • Legal aspects of interpersonal violence
  • Evidence collection
  • Death investigation
  • Forensic nursing science