How to Become a Forensic Nurse

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Forensic Nurse

If you are thinking that you have reached the peak of your RN career and don’t know how to progress further then a career in forensic could be an option for you.
As like other advanced nursing specialty, forensic nursing has its own pros and cons. Forensic nursing has more field work than any other nursing specialty.
Forensic nursing as a career is not meant for everyone, this field is extremely challenging and nerve wrecking but if you are someone who seeks thrill and has unwavering mental endurance then a career in forensic nursing is suitable for you.

So how is it exactly thrilling? Forensic nursing is where legal systems and healthcare systems intersect. Forensic nurses are part of the legal investigations team in a crime scene or in any unresolved situations where legal enforcers are needed. They are skilled at recognizing inconsistencies that help resolve medical issues and they act as a bridge between legal and the healthcare systems. Forensic nurses are vital into solving irregular medical issues as they have full authority both in a crime scene and in the forensic lab. Forensic nurses are the pioneers of building connections among two very different practice or systems.

Their profession is noble as well as thrilling; there is never a boring day. A forensic nurse is basically someone who works with crime victims/abuse victims/crime scene to gather medical evidence and provide expert testimony that can be used in court; they usually have a keen observation skill, they are the ones who are responsible for detecting irregularities in the bodies of victims or the criminal.
Now if you are still contemplating a career in forensic nursing then the following information is for you –
Basic requirements – 

Educational BackgroundAssociates or bachelor’s degree.
Master’s degree in forensic nursing.
Job fieldCrime Scene, forensic lab, Crime facilities, hospitals, clinics, trauma facilities, mass disaster centers etc.
CertificationCertification in Advanced Forensic Nursing Certification (AFN-BC).
LicenseNational Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN)
Key SkillsKeen observation skills.
Strong deduction skills.
Basic and advanced nursing skills.
Must be able to make sophisticated judgments.
Experience2-3 years as a RN

Now there are several steps to becoming a forensic nurse
let’s go through them one by one –

Step 1: Earn a degree and become a RN.

As forensic nursing is an advanced specialized field, first to become one, a nursing student must become a RN first.
The quickest way to become a RN is by earning an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), it is a 2 year program but the only problem is that this program is not sufficient for many healthcare organizations thus it becomes tough to find a job.
The most proficient way is to by earning a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, it’s a 4 year program and it can be done from any nursing college or university. There is also diploma in nursing which takes about 3 years to complete.

Step 2: Get Licensed.

Forensic Nurse

After graduating, the nurses need a state approval so that they can start working in a clinic or any healthcare organization so they need to take an examination which is called the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). In order to earn a state level license and work freely, they need to pass this exam.

Step 3: Garner experience and earn an advanced degree.

Since forensic nursing is pretty critical, most forensic employers want their applicants to be well experienced in nursing fields, at least about 2 to 3 years.
Most students start as LPN or RN, they accumulate experience and eventually move further up in the rank or position according to their performance. When they have enough experience, they can apply for the Master’s degree in forensic nursing. Master’s or doctoral degree in forensic nursing is required to become a forensic nurse.

An advanced degree such as the Master’s or the doctoral program will provide you with relevant information about forensic nursing and will give an opportunity to earn experience inside in your desired field. You will gain experience in the following fields – clinical forensic roles, teaching, legal nurse consulting, research, forensic psychiatric nursing etc. There are also other relevant programs in the curriculum of a Master’s or doctoral degree program; such as, the violence prevention programs and the understanding of criminal justice system.

Step 4: Certification

Forensic Nurse

Always remember that earning an advanced degree in forensic won’t give you a guaranteed job, which is why you need to get certified to find out that which expertise in forensic nursing suits you the best, and this is extremely important because not all fields of forensic nursing will appeal to you. Getting certified will help you match your skills and expertise with your desired field. There are two kinds of certification – one is offered as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) and other is Advanced Forensic Nursing Certification (AFN-BC), both are given
by IAFN (International Association for Forensic Nurses).

SANE is also divided with SANE-A & SANE-P.
SANE-A is for working with adults and adolescents and SANE-P for working with pediatric patients. Applicants will have to sit for exams with prerequisite of 2 years of RN experience, sufficient nursing knowledge and other criteria set by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board. Advanced Forensic Nursing Certification (AFN-BC) is the popular certification among the two, the applicants doesn’t have to sit for exams but rather by submitting your career portfolio with all your experience, education and achievement.

The IAFN (International Association for Forensic Nurses) in partnership with the American Nurses Credentialing Center gives the certification. Candidates can sit for or apply for the certification twice a year, in May and October both in US and internationally. Before deciding on which advanced field to chase, The IAFN recommends that you should first gather all info and materials of your desired field, especially for the field in forensic. A job in the forensic field can affect you psychologically if you’re not prepared for it as it deals with victims and crimes most of the time. So look before you leap.

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