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Q&A - Forensic Nursing Programs

What other areas of study are related to my forensic nursing program?

Since most students who enter forensic nursing programs are practicing nurses who want to specialize in their field, general nursing is a natural area of study to consider. There are a variety of nursing degrees available, including an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN), a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), which is generally for those interested in nursing education or management. To become a registered nurse (RN), you have to hold at least an associates in nursing and pass the NCLEX-RN certification exam.

There are a variety of specializations within nursing in addition to forensic nursing that prospective students may want to consider. One option is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), in which you would learn to administer anesthesia during surgery. Other specializations include gastroenterology, OB/GYN and pediatrics.

Because forensic nurses work closely with victims of crimes such as sexual assaults and domestic violence, another related area of study to consider is professional counseling. A degree program that could lead to a career in counseling is a Master of Science in Counseling, and students can specialize in areas such as domestic violence counseling or rape victim counseling.

What internships should I pursue during my on-campus or online forensic nursing degree program?

Internships are an integral part of all nursing programs. In the medical field, they are called preceptorships, as students are closely supervised by an expert, or preceptor, in the area of medicine they are studying. The top forensic nursing programs online or on campus consist of an equal mix of education and experience for students to gain nursing proficiency. This means that you should complete a clinical internship focusing on forensic nursing while enrolled in a forensic nursing program.

Forensic nursing internships can be completed in many settings, such as a hospital or private clinic, a forensics crime laboratory, a medical examiner’s office, a victim advocate’s office, a forensic psychiatry unit or a shelter for victims of domestic violence. The most important part of such an internship is gaining direct experience in the type of forensic nursing you are interested in, such as helping victims of sexual assault or other violent crimes. Specializations within forensic nursing include child abuse nurse examiner, sexual assault nurse examiner, nurse death investigator and nurse coroner.

Forensic nursing students studying on a traditional campus may receive help in finding internships from their program’s career office, but if you are enrolled in an online program it may be up to you to secure a clinical internship at a local clinic or hospital.

Are there any movies or TV shows that I might enjoy during my forensic nursing degree program?

As hospital dramas have become a mainstay of primetime TV, there are plenty of shows to choose from if you would like to get a taste of what it’s like to work in a hospital or clinic. However, there are a few shows that feature forensic nursing in particular.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit is a crime drama centered on a group of NYPD detectives who investigate sexually related crimes. While the heroes of the show are cops rather than doctors or nurses, they often work closely with forensic nurses and medical examiners to gather evidence and confront realistic instances of sexual abuse. The show demonstrates how forensic evidence is gathered, sometimes straight from newspaper headlines.

Another TV show that forensic nursing students might like is Nurse Jackie, which mixes humor and drama to depict the struggles of a nurse working in a New York hospital. The show has been praised for being realistic and not hiding the often stressful realities that nurses face.

Finally, if you want to see real nurses in action, there’s the reality TV series 13 Weeks, which follows 6 actual nurses travelling throughout California who treat patients while trying to live normal lives. Best of all, you can watch the show online on Nurse TV.

Are there any accelerated campus-based or online forensic nursing programs to help me finish my degree faster?

If you are trying to pick from among the many accredited online forensic nursing programs out there, you might want to consider accelerated options. Some of the best forensic nursing online programs will get you out into the workforce faster than the programs offered by traditional universities. Forensic nursing certificate programs take less time to complete than forensic nursing masters programs, so a certificate is a good choice if you want to start working sooner.

One such program is the online post-bachelors forensic nursing certificate program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing. The program is designed for RNs interested in specializing in forensic nursing, and its 12-credit course load may be completed in 9 months and completely online. Johns Hopkins University is 1 of the top research universities in the country.

Another certificate option is the forensic nursing graduate certificate from Fitchburg State University, which is offered completely online. The program consists of a total of 21 credits, 4 of which contain a clinical/laboratory component.

If you want to earn your certificate faster, you could study year-round, completing 4 semesters in 1 year rather than 2. University of California, Riverside offers such an option, with its online forensic nursing certificate. The courses take place entirely online in the fall, winter, spring and summer semesters.