Forensic Nurse Career Information

Forensic nurses are experienced, advanced care nurses. They are expert analysts and case managers for people who've been victims of assaults or suffered injuries from criminal acts. Their work is highly detailed and often requires intensive study of case issues. Forensic nurses work in the area of forensic pathology, the study of evidence of trauma and gathering information about criminal cases.

The work environment

With this work comes a series of requirements for correct procedures and attention to the issues of criminal law. Accurate information is an important essential. The job isn't a "support" role. It's an active engagement in the legal process. Forensic nurse’s work involves:

  • Victim care
  • Evaluation of information regarding the case
  • Assisting forensic pathologists
  • Gathering of evidence
  • Storage of evidence according to custody guidelines
  • Court testimonies, depending on legal needs

Skills

The skills required for the forensic nursing role are good indicators of the workplace environment:

  • Advanced professional communication skills: Obtaining information from severely traumatized people isn't easy. The forensic nurse must manage the communications with the patient, and translate the information received into working data both for physicians and for legal purposes.
  • Excellent observation skills: A lot of the forensic information may relate to sources of data other than that obtained from the patient. The forensic nurse must evaluate things like stains on clothes, or marks on the patient with a clear understanding of the value of information for forensic pathology and criminal investigation.
  • Thorough knowledge and understanding of the needs of the forensic legal process: The risk in any forensic investigation is missing evidence. A person's guilt or innocence may be established by a single piece of forensic evidence. The forensic nurse has to be a real expert in these areas, and use good practice to ensure no information is lost or discarded.
  • Case and care management: The forensic nurse also provides care of the patient. This care has to be efficiently organized to match the needs of the patient, as well as dealing with the related forensic aspects. For example, a broken bone is primary evidence of assault, but the patient still requires pain management, x rays, and appropriate levels of care. In this case the x rays also form part of the evidence of assault.
  • Liaison duties: The forensic nurse is also the professional interface between the patient's care, the attending doctors, and the legal investigation. This role is the source of current information regarding the patient's condition and the information acquired. As the case manager, the forensic nurse is the primary source of information to both doctors, and law enforcement agencies regarding current circumstances.
  • Court testimony: The forensic nurse may be required to provide evidence to a court. This is an indication of the amount and quality of information handled in this role, and its importance to the legal process.

The career environment

Forensic nursing is a unique role. Nurses achieve career advancement through promotion and through employment opportunities. Many forensic nurses work in urban areas, where crime rates are high and demand for their services is extensive.