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Forensics Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

June 3, 2020 | Staff Writers

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On this page, students can learn how to become a forensics nurse. This guide outlines forensics nurse degree options, license requirements, and salary data. Aspiring forensics nurses can also use this page to find training and certification information, job growth data, and professional resources.

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What is a Forensics Nurse?

What is a forensics nurse and what does a forensics nurse do? Forensics nurses care for patients who have suffered abuse, trauma, and violence. They work across a variety of settings with patients from different backgrounds, providing quality nursing and healthcare. These nurses assist crime victims, providing them with sensitive, compassionate care and attention.

There are also options for specialization within forensic nurse requirements. For example, forensics nurses can specialize in sexual assault or trauma by earning a sexual assault nurse examiners certification.


  • What Do Forensics Nurses Do?

    A relatively new field within the nursing industry, forensics nursing combines medical care with the legal aspects of a patient’s history. These nurses handle injuries related to abuse and violence as well as assessment and treatment of injuries caused by sexual assault. Forensics nurses usually work within medical facilities, assisting patients who come into clinics and hospitals. They may also work directly with police or lawyers as consultants in cases that require medical knowledge.

    Cases involving criminal activity often require assistance from a forensic nurse. Due to the highly sensitive nature of criminal cases, forensics nurses must complete additional training to do this work; forensics nurses study both law enforcement and nursing concepts. They serve as liaisons as well as caregivers. This ensures that crime victims experience the highest quality of care on both a physical and emotional level.

    Forensics nurses who work in emergency departments and urgent care facilities collect evidence, including bodily fluids and bullets; perform physical examinations and wound care; photograph evidence and injuries; interview patients and their families; and report victims of assault and abuse to the proper authorities.

  • Where Do Forensics Nurses Work?

    Forensics nurses often work in hospitals, usually in hospital emergency rooms. Some forensics nurses work in urgent care departments, helping trauma patients who are suffering from injuries, abuse, and assault. Forensics nurses can also work for local government agencies, medical examiners, coroners, pathologists, or nonprofits serving abuse and trauma survivors.

  • Skills That Could Affect Forensics Nurse Salaries

    Forensics nurses should excel at thorough documentation. They must document evidence, monitor care outcomes, and report abuse situations. Detail-oriented forensics nurses excel because many of their duties require close attention to detail and providing thorough reports.

    Forensics nurses also need excellent critical thinking skills. They often work on complex cases that require them to think outside the box to provide the highest quality of care to their patients. Forensics nurses also need superior communication skills when interacting with their patients, other healthcare professionals, and law enforcement.


How to Become a Forensics Nurse

The first step to becoming a forensics nurse is earning a degree. Forensics nurses need at least an associate degree; completion of an associate program allows graduates to earn their RN licenses. A bachelor of science in nursing is one of the most common educational pathways nurses pursue. However, many learners also choose to earn a master of science in nursing, which provides more advanced career opportunities.

Upon completion of a forensics nurse degree program, graduates can complete their registered nurse licenses, completing and passing the NCLEX-RN exam. Although specialized certification is not required for a forensics nursing career, many employers prefer candidates with certifications and master’s degrees.

Education

Before becoming a forensics nurse, candidates need a registered nurse license. As part of the requirements for registered nurse licensure, students must complete an associate degree in nursing or a bachelor of science in nursing. While a master of science is not required to pursue a career as a forensics nurse, holding an advanced degree qualifies graduates for more job opportunities and helps them stand out from other candidates.

How long it takes to earn a degree varies. At the associate level, full-time learners typically take two years to earn their degrees. Full-time bachelor’s students complete their degrees in four years. Students pursuing a master’s often take about two years to complete their programs.

Training and Certification

While earning a certification in forensics nursing is not necessarily required to become a forensics nurse, obtaining certification is recommended. Professionals with certifications in forensics nursing can demonstrate their skill and knowledge in the field. Advanced practice nurses and registered nurses can also complete a forensics nurse specialist program.

The American Institute of Health Care Professionals provides comprehensive training in forensics nursing, including 250 contact hours of continuing education requirements. To qualify for the certification program, candidates must complete formal training as a registered nurse and hold a current, valid registered nurse license.

Forensics nurses who hold certification can explore a wider range of career opportunities and set themselves apart from other candidates. Some employers might offer certified nurses higher salaries than those who do not hold certification.

Forensics Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

How much does a forensics nurse make? Forensics nurse salary data varies by location and experience level. The national median salary for forensics nurses is $63,263. Forensics nurses can explore opportunities around the country that allow them to elevate their salaries. Los Angeles, California, pays these nurses the most: $86,670. Other high-paying cities include New York City, Houston, Chicago, and Dallas, ranging in median salary amounts between $63,793 and $82,874.

Between entry-level and late-career nurses, salary amounts range from $53,736 to $72,001. Before becoming a forensics nurse, many professionals work as registered nurses, where the highest paying opportunities are in California, particularly in the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry. The industry with the highest concentration of jobs and employment levels for the occupation is the general surgical and medical hospitals industry.

Highest Salary Locations for Registered Nurses
National Median $63,263
Los Angeles, California $86,670
New York, New York $82,874
Houston, Texas $71,487
Chicago, Illinois $65,793
Dallas, Texas $63,793

Source: PayScale

Median Salary for Registered Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $53,736
  • Early Career: $59,439
  • Mid Career: $65,530
  • Experienced: $69,027
  • Late Career: $72,001

Source: PayScale

Related Job Salaries
Medical Assistant Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Registered Nurse (RN), Emergency Room FDHFRegistered Nurse (RN), Critical CareDFD
$32,840 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

Source: PayScale

Forensics Nurse Resources

  • American Forensic Nurses AFN partners with the American Institute of Forensic Education to deliver online professional development courses dedicated to scientific professionals. Field experts develop self-paced courses that allow professionals to earn a certificate of completion. AFN provides quality educational resources for individuals interested in the forensic science field.
  • American Institute of Forensic Education IFE highlights online professional forensic science continuing education courses and training opportunities. The organization’s courses prepare professionals to handle issues in the forensics nursing field. Programs meet the license renewal and certification renewal requirements for healthcare professionals across settings.
  • International Association of Forensic Nurses This group boasts a network of more than 5,000 members who support and practice forensic nursing across 26 countries. The organization offers continuing education and certification opportunities through an online learning center. Members can attend chapter events and conferences, taking advantage of networking opportunities.
  • Nurse.com Job Search Nurses can use the job search function on Nurse.com to browse job opportunities by title and discipline. Users can also filter their job search results by location, inputting distance parameters to browse opportunities within their desired locations.
  • Academy of Forensic Nursing Committed to connecting research and practice in forensics nursing through education, service, and scholarship, AFN promotes collaboration between forensics attorneys, nurses, physicians, law enforcement, and advocates. The academy promotes evidence-based care in the nursing profession.
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