How Do I Become a Forensic Nurse & What Qualifications Do I Need?

Updated February 21, 2017

Forensic nurses are registered nurses who are specialised in forensic science. They may deal with dead bodies, but more often they deal with patients who are victims of crimes such as domestic abuse, rape, and assault. They evaluate, treat and care for these individuals, but they also collect physical evidence and secure it for further processing by law enforcement agencies. In addition, they can work together with forensic scientists and pathologists, and may be required to testify in court. All forensic nurses must have a university degree in nursing, hold a registered nurse license and complete training courses in forensic science. They must next become Certified Forensic Nurses.

Become A Registered Nurse. Because forensic nursing is a highly specialised profession, the American Board of Forensic Nursing requires nurses to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and hold a current and valid Registered Nurse (RN) license. To be accepted into a nursing course at a university, you must obtain a minimum 2.5 GPA and have taken subjects such as English, biology, chemistry, physical education and mathematics. Each state in the United States has its own requirements for registration as a RN, so verify that you are eligible. In many cases, a registered nurse must have practised for at least 3 years in order to be certified as a forensic nurse.

Take A Specialist Forensic Nurse Program. Several universities offer advanced nursing education to nurses who are already incorporating aspects of forensic nursing in their daily work, or to nurses wanting a forensic nursing career. For example, George Mason University offers a Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing, with courses such as Role of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and Interpersonal Violence, Crime Lab and Crime Scene Investigation, Psychological and Legal Aspects of Forensic Science, and Investigation of Injury and Death. Admissions to this course requires a 3.0 GPA with up to 3 C grade credits allowed. Other possible forensic nursing specialities include legal adviser and consultant, and forensic psychiatric nurse. Kaplan College offers a Legal Nurse Consultant Certificate taught by an attorney, in addition to offering the Forensic Nursing Certificate.

Become A Certified Forensic Nurse (CFN). There are several certifying authorities. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IFAN) and the American College of Forensic Examiners (ACFE) provide certification for individuals who have satisfied the educational requirements for forensic nursing. IFAN certifies Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). The American College of Forensic Examiners International holds a CFN Examiner course teaching subjects including Criminalistics and Forensic Science, Violence and Victimology, Homicide and Child Maltreatment.

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About the Author

Palmer Owyoung holds a Master of Arts in international business from the University of California at San Diego and a Bachelor of Arts in sociology from the University of California at Santa Barbara and is a trained molecular biologist. He has been a freelance writer since 2006. In addition to writing, he is a full-time Forex trader and Internet marketer.