How to become a forensic nurse investigator

Updated April 17, 2017

A forensic nurse is a medical professional who can provide patient care as well as employ specialised forensic training in evidence collection, witness testimony and legal procedure to investigate crimes. In effect, the forensic nurse functions as the liaison between doctors and law enforcement agencies. She often investigates incoming patients as potential victims of child abuse, sexual assault, or other crimes. However, forensic nurses also may specialise in postmortem examinations and other fields outside of the emergency room.

Become a licensed registered nurse. Forensic nurses already possess the qualifications and experience of regular nurses in the health care industry. At a minimum, enrol and receive a degree from a nursing school and then pass the NCLEX state board examination.Depending on the diploma, this process may take two to four years. offers a comprehensive list of nursing schools in your area. In addition, acquire job experience as a registered nurse before becoming a forensic nurse. Typical activities include observing and recording patient medical history, establishing and executing plan cares for patients, and assisting doctors with their diagnoses.

Familiarise yourself with the profession of forensic nursing. As a start, browse the website to find out if the job is right for you. If you feel suited to the profession, purchase the book "Forensic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice" which is published by the American Nursing Association (ANA). The 100-page booklet describes all of the essentials of forensic nursing as well as the standards required for working in this field. If it's not obvious already, bear in mind that this profession is not for the squeamish.

Choose an area of forensic nursing that interests you. Specialisations include sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), emergency room nursing, evidence collection trainer, legal consultant and crime scene unit investigation.

Enrol in a forensic nursing program. as well as have listings of these programs in the United States. Schools that offer degrees in Forensic Nursing include Johns Hopkins (Maryland), Monmouth (New Jersey) and SUNY Binghamton (New York). If you cannot physically attend a training program, the American Forensic Nurses Association (AMRN) offers online self-paced professional development courses in partnership with University of California Riverside. Upon completion, enrollees receive a certificate of completion.

Get certified as a forensic nurse. While licensing of forensic nurses is handled on a state rather than a national level, there are several general areas of certification: SANE, Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE), Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE), Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician (SANC). Though experience in law enforcement is helpful in your profession, you do not need to acquire specific degrees or certifications in that area.

Search for a job as a forensic nurse. If you don't have a resume already, write one that emphasises your experience and knowledge of forensic nursing. Besides the usual listings at online job sites, the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) has a jobs board specifically designed for those seeking careers in the field. Also, if you work as a forensic nurse in a branch of law enforcement, be aware that you may need to submit to a background check, lie detector test and psychological examination to ensure you can handle the job.

Things You'll Need

  • Book: "Forensic Nursing: Scope and Standards of Practice"
  • Registered nurse degree
  • Forensic nurse training
  • Forensic nurse certification
  • Resume
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About the Author

Noel Lawrence has written on cultural affairs and cinema for Release Print and OtherZine since 2000. He holds a graduate degree in Russian literature from Stanford University and currently lives in Los Angeles.