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Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses are registered nurses that fill a relatively new specialty role within the nursing profession. They work in many different settings and investigate the potential causes of a person’s injury, illness or death, according to American Forensic Nurses, Inc. Their work involves both forensic science and nursing science. A forensic nurse’s responsibilities might include gathering and documenting evidence from those who commit violent crimes and their victims, and appearing in the courtroom as an expert witness. Many take photographs of a victim’s injuries that are later used as evidence in court. A great many perform forensic sexual assault examinations for rape victims.

Forensic nurses who serve as sexual assault/domestic violence examiners can usually enter the profession holding only an associate degree in nursing, but typically must obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) to improve their chances of moving into a supervisory role or coordinator position. A minor in criminal justice or forensic science will also be useful for these positions because forensic nurses must often work closely with law enforcement and those in the legal system. All forensic nurses will need to maintain RN licensure in their state of practice. However, 1-3 years experience in acute care, such as in the emergency room (ER) or Intensive Care Unit (ICU) is required for most positions.

Because of their specialization and experience, forensic nurses will generally earn more than the average staff RN. One reason for this is that they often have several years of experience in critical care before entering forensic nursing. Forensic nurses with 1-4 years of experience in the field earn between $28 and $39.55 on average, according to salary numbers gathered by online compensation site Payscale.com. Aside from the monetary benefits, forensic nurses have the opportunity to work in different fields. While the largest subspecialty within forensic nursing is sexual assault, many work in death investigation, where they may provide little direct patient care, but still must maintain nursing licensure. Other options include forensic psychiatric nursing and consulting.