One of the most interesting and challenging careers in nursing is the field of forensic nursing. It is also one specialty field that is gaining much popularity among nurses. This is basically a novel and growing specialty in nursing and its demand is mainly with victims of violence. The practice of forensic nursing has its roots in the 18th century when midwives testified in courts on matters such as virginity, pregnancy, and rape. On the contrary, forensic medicine began in the early 16th century and it focused mainly on pathology and cause of death. The current model of forensic nursing has evolved from the unique role of police medical officers found in the United Kingdom and other countries.
Nurses with interest in the field of forensics may obtain training in forensic nursing in any of the four primary routes: continuing education courses, certification programs, a minor or concentration in forensics, and formal graduate study. In their education, courses related to forensic nursing may be called differently but in their curriculum, they may be overlapping or the same: Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE), Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE), Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician (SANC), and Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE). Leading schools that offer Forensic Nursing as specialty in the graduate studies include the best graduate school for nursing, Johns Hopkins University, and also Vanderbilt University and University of Illinois in Chicago. After completion of forensic education, nurses may undergo certification. Certification demonstrates professional commitment and being certified in a field of specialty demonstrates a desire to provide quality of care. Certification such as that granted by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board (FNCB) and the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) is pursuant to a voluntary procedure which is intended exclusively to test for special knowledge. The certifying body does not assert to license, to bestow a right, to privilege upon, nor otherwise to define the qualifications of any person for practice of forensic nursing. As there is no uniformity, the significance of certification in any jurisdiction or institution is the responsibility of the candidate to determine.
Nurses who are trained to become forensic nurses play a vital role in the collection of evidences that can be used in courts of law, and at the same time forensic nurses may be asked to testify in trials of their jurisdiction. Duties of these nurses also include determination of origin or circumstances of the situation, evaluation and alleviation of crime victim’s injuries, and rehabilitation of criminals. Because the field of practice of forensic nurses is diverse, their functions may encompass the following:
- Domestic violence
- Emergency trauma
- Sexual assault nurse examiners
- Legal nurse consultants or attorneys
Forensic nurses are employed in a variety of settings and they include psychiatric facilities, acute healthcare facilities, correctional institutions, prosecutor’s office, medical examiner’s office, and even in insurance companies among others. The most challenging aspect of the field of work of forensic nurses is the danger in working with violent offenders. But with proper knowledge and skills, forensic nurses are able to surpass this challenge. And so, with the uniqueness of their practice in nursing, they may earn an annual income of up to $133,750 although this may be dependent on the years of experience, certification, educational attainment, location and employer type. Because nursing is the fastest growing sector in the health care industry, the future of forensic nursing is also promising. Besides, as the incidence of violent crimes increase, the need for forensic nurses expands as well.