Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming a Forensic Nurse

September 9th, 2014 by

Forensic Nursing CareersOne of the largest career fields in the United States is that of nursing. Millions of nurses work in private practices, clinics and hospitals across the country to diagnose patients, provide medical treatment and support and even offer administrative help. With more than three million nurses working in the country today, there are dozens of types of nursing careers to choose from.

A registered nurse is the most common career choice in the field, but that is certainly not the only career opportunity for someone interested in becoming a nurse. If you are interested in the criminal justice system as well as medicine, then the perfect combination of the two might be a job as a forensic nurse. Learn more about what forensic nurses do, where they work, the steps to becoming a forensic nurse and how an online degree might be able to get you to your career goals in less time.

The Job of a Forensic Nurse

Before you dive headfirst into becoming a forensic nurse, it is vital that you have a complete understanding of the role. Forensic nurses are trained nurses, but they have very different careers than many of the individuals who work in hospitals and private practices. A forensic nurse completes physicals and medical investigations into the origin of trauma or injury.

For example, a forensic nurse might have to inspect a patient who has come forward as a victim of rape in order to determine whether the wounds could reasonably have come from that kind of altercation. Forensic nurses have a tough and trying job working with elderly abuse victims, abused children and victims of sexual assault.

However, their work is instrumental in bringing help to these victims and helping them get both the medical treatment they need and the justice they deserve. Forensic nurses typically conduct most of their work in hospitals, although they may report all of their findings to police stations or other government agencies who proceed with these investigations or allegations.

Earning a Bachelor’s Degree

The first step in becoming a forensic nurse is earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing. All forensic nurses have to complete at least some post-graduate certifications, which means that the foundation of a bachelor’s degree is integral. A bachelor’s in nursing can be obtained from a number of different online and traditional college campuses around the country.

However, applicants have to meet specific prerequisites in order to be accepted into these degree programs and begin the courses. Although the exact admission requirements vary significantly from school to school, you should have an absolute minimum of a high school degree or diploma before you enroll into a program. Once you’ve been accepted into the college of your choice, the bachelor’s degree in nursing will take roughly four years to complete.

The curriculum will vary depending on the exact college you attend, but the most common courses to find on your syllabus will include anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, patient care, medical ethics, nutrition and chemistry.

Post-Graduate Work to Become a Forensic Nurse

After earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing, you can move on to the next stage in the path to becoming a forensic nurse. Graduates will need to study and sit for the National Council Licensure Examination, better known as the NCLEX. Passing this will officially give you the title of RN, or registered nurse. With this title obtained, you can apply for a master’s degree in forensic nursing. This degree typically takes two years to complete, and it will prepare you for working in forensics after graduation.

Once again, these degree programs do have prerequisites that are set by each school, and you will need to meet their admission requirements before you can enroll into the program.

Once you find a school that meets your qualifications, expect to complete your master’s in forensic nursing in approximately two years. Some of the courses you can expect to take during this time include interpersonal violence, psychophysiology, victim care, forensic pathology and protecting evidence.

Gaining Experience in the Nursing Industry

Finally, it is important to note that few, if any, forensic nursing positions are filled by individuals who don’t have working experience within the field. Simply having your master’s in forensic nursing is not enough to show that you are capable of being a compassionate and efficient medical professional.

A common way to gain experience as a nurse is to work as an RN while you earn your master’s degree. This can be easily facilitated by earning your master’s degree online while you work frequently irregular shifts as a nurse.

Typical Attributes Found Among Successful Forensic Nurses

Nurses are known for their compassion, but forensic nurses have to be incredibly compassionate when dealing with their patients. The typical patients of a forensic nurse have undergone tremendous trauma very recently, so they may have emotional and mental barriers as well as physical afflictions.

The best forensic nurses are calm, patient and willing to address the needs of their patients throughout diagnosis and treatment. In addition, forensic nurses are organized and able to multitask, which is necessary when treating several patients at once or dealing with an ongoing case.

Finally, the best forensic nurses have physical stamina and the ability to work potentially long shifts without getting distracted or losing focus.

Advantages of Studying Forensic Nursing Online

Whether you are getting ready to earn your bachelor’s degree or your master’s degree, you will have the option of completing your degree program online instead of through a traditional college campus.

Accredited online colleges can be a smart way for busy people to fit education into their hectic schedules, particularly if they already have a job in the medical industry. Nurses traditionally work odd shifts or nights, so attending normal classroom hours can certainly be challenging.

Online degrees give you the flexibility to watch lectures and seminars whenever you have time, take exams whenever you feel prepared and work through course materials at your own pace.

Salary and Job Outlook for Forensic Nurses

Registered nurses, on average, can command annual salaries of $65,470n the United States. Achieving a master’s degree in forensic nursing and gaining additional work experience on top of that can easily increase earning potential up to $85,00 and above.

This makes forensic nursing a lucrative career choice for the right candidates. Job growth is also predicted to grow by a substantial amount in this field over the next decade, with the overall demand for nurses forecast to jump by a staggering 20 percent.

This translates into more job opportunities for aspiring forensic nurses as well as less competition at the hiring stage or when applying for promotions and salary increases. Forensic nurses have a challenging, but fulfilling job.

Their work brings the right medical treatment and justice to patients and victims who need it most. To begin your career in forensic nursing, both a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s in forensic nursing should be on your educational agenda. Begin your search for the right degree program at

About the Author:

Sandy Davis

Sandy Davis is a long-time educator who holds a Master’s Degree in Education, having taught English, writing, and communication on the secondary and college levels. With ten years of experience in blogging, social media and content management, she is a freelance writer and content marketing specialist for a diverse range of clients.

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