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Q&A - Forensic Nursing Jobs & Careers

Where will I work in my forensic nursing career?

Graduates of forensic nursing programs work in a variety of settings, and the amount and kinds of forensic nursing jobs is steadily increasing. In addition to traditional nursing settings such as hospitals and private or public clinics, forensic nurses work in crime laboratories, medical examiners’ offices, victim advocates’ offices, forensic psychiatry units and shelters for victims of domestic violence. In addition, because forensic nurses work closely with legal and law enforcement professionals, some jobs in forensic nursing may require you to spend time in courtrooms or at police stations.

Within forensic nursing itself there are several specializations, and your choice of specialization will largely determine where you work in your forensic nursing career. These include working as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), advanced practice forensic nurse or forensic clinical nurse specialist, nurse death investigator or nurse coroner. SANE is the most common forensic nursing career, and SANE nurses often work in the ER units of hospitals or clinics.

How long does it take to find a job in forensic nursing?

With an aging and increasingly unhealthy population, the demand for all medical professionals is steadily increasing in the U.S. In addition, the field of nursing as a whole is growing at a projected rate of 26% over the next decade according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS estimates that between 2010 and 2020 about 700,000 new registered nurses will enter the workforce overall.

Within this comprehensive figure, the demand for forensic nursing specialists has only increased since the need for forensic nurses became obvious in the mid-1980s. Forensic nursing was only recognized as a specialty of nursing in 1995, so the field is very new and still developing, which means that finding forensic nursing jobs at this time is not difficult, provided you have a masters or certificate in forensic nursing from an accredited online or on-campus program.

How have forensic nursing careers changed over the years?

The field of forensic nursing began in the eighteenth century, though it looked very different back then and had a completely different purpose. Initially, forensic nurses were generally midwives who would testify as to whether or not a woman was a virgin on her wedding day or determine whether or not a woman was pregnant or had been raped. In its early stages, forensic nursing was a form of evidence against the victims.

Today, jobs in forensic nursing serve the opposite purpose, which is to secure evidence that helps the victim of a violent or sexual crime and puts the perpetrator behind bars. In this way, modern forensic nursing evolved from the role of a police medical examiner rather than from the midwives of the eighteenth century. Modern-day forensic nurses work closely with police and the legal system to gather evidence while at the same time tending to the physical and emotional needs of victims.

What are the top employers for forensic nursing jobs?

There are many types of possible forensic nursing careers depending on your specialization within forensic nursing. The most frequent forensic nursing specialization is as a sexual assault nurse examiner. In this field, the most common forensic nursing careers take place in settings such as hospitals, police departments, or rape crisis centers. In fact, more than half of forensic nursing jobs can be found here according to a 2000 study called Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Programs in the United States.

Increasingly, additional employers of forensic nurses are medical examiners and coroners. These offices employ nurse death investigators and nurse coroners. Nurse death investigators work with medical examiners to determine the circumstances of a death before the body is released. Nurse coroners work with coroners to also perform investigations into the causes of death as well as issue death certificates. Forensic nurses working in these positions examine natural causes of death as well as unnatural causes, so they do not always work with the police.