The field of nursing has expanded over the years as healthcare organizations and other institutions have begun to understand the need for niche patient care skills.
Forensic nursing, which is one of the newest nursing specialties, has become important in criminal investigations and in caring for victims of crimes.
Forensic nurses straddle the line between the medical and legal worlds, allowing them to assist with a variety of tasks and situations.
Forensic nursing is a perfect career choice for people who are compassionate, curious, and want to make a difference in the world.
But how do you get started and become a forensic nurse?
Because nursing is a highly skilled profession, you will need to pursue advanced training and pass certain certification exams.
Here’s what you’ll need to become a forensic nurse:
Develop These Essential Forensic Nursing Skills
Forensic nurses need to develop specialized skills in order to be successful. There are different career paths forensic nurses can take, which each require different skills.
However, all forensic nurses need to be comfortable communicating, investigating and testifying.
Nurses who want to work with sexual assault victims (known as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners or SANE) must develop therapeutic communication skills. They must be sensitive, kind, compassionate and empathetic.
SANEs must develop skills in both investigation and counseling in order to work with victims. This is also true for forensic psychiatric nurses, who work with both offenders and victims.
Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) and Nurse Death Investigators (NDI) assist medical examiners and investigate deaths.
They must gain skills in investigation, documentation and photography and communication. FNEs and NDIs are responsible for helping to identify the deceased and determine how they died.
Though many nurses prefer to work directly with patients and cases, others work as legal nurse consultants. These nurses are responsible for working with attorneys and physicians and may do more educational and consulting work than patient care.
They need to have in-depth knowledge of the medical field and strong analysis, research, and communication skills.
Obtain a Degree in Forensic Nursing or Related Field
All nurses need to earn a degree in nursing before they can take a job in a hospital or clinic.
Whether you want to work in a medical examiner’s office, a hospital emergency room, or a correctional facility, you’ll need to get your degree in forensic nursing or a related field first.
Although there aren’t many schools offering specialized forensic nursing courses, there may be options for online health education.
You can also pursue a degree in general nursing and specialize later on, but if you know you want to get into forensics, it’s a good idea to think about what type of degree will serve you best from the beginning.
Take the RN Licensing Exam
Every nursing graduate must take the licensing exam to become a registered nurse (RN). This is known as the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination).
The NCLEX is a standardized test that all nurses must pass in order to apply for a nursing job. Becoming licensed is a requirement for anyone who wants to be a forensic nurse as well.
Network and Consider Certifications
Forensic nursing positions can be in high demand. The work is interesting and the salaries are competitive.
With this in mind, you might want to consider additional certifications in your area of interest, such as a Master’s degree in forensic nursing or the SANE certification, in order to increase your competitiveness as an applicant.
Networking is also important. Talk to anyone and everyone about your interest in forensic nursing. Get to know other medical professionals and join professional groups both online and in person.
The more people you meet and talk to, the better your chances of landing a job as a forensic nurse.
Build and Refine Your Resume
If you’re just starting out in nursing, then your resume might be a little thin. Don’t let that discourage you!
Think of ways you can build and refine your nursing resume. If you can’t find a job in forensic nursing right away, think about volunteering with assault victims or learn a language that could help you communicate with patients.
There are lots of ways to put your best foot forward. Your resume should showcase and highlight your certifications, skills, and accomplishments.
Becoming a forensic nurse takes time, but it’s a rewarding career that can truly allow you to make a difference in the world.