How to Become a Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses work in emergency departments and trauma care facilities and you can become a forensic nurse once you have completed training as a registered nurse by completing forensic nursing certification.


Forensic nurses are registered nurses, which means that you have completed a four year undergraduate science degree in nursing, completed an associate degree in nursing or have a nursing diploma. You will also need to complete the national licensing exam, the NCLEX-RN. Many employers prefer to hire forensic nurses that have at least one year's experience in the emergency department/trauma or acute care departments.

License and Certification

After you have completed your degree or diploma, you will have to pass the NCLEX-RN. Once completed, you may decide to pursue an additional certificate or a graduate degree in forensic nursing. There are several schools in the US that offer a Certified Forensic Nurse certificate or graduate degree, and these schools are listed on the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) website.

As a registered nurse, you can pursue additional certification with the IAFN. There are two certificates offered by the IAFN: the SANE-A, which allows you to use the designation, Board-Certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners-Adult/Adolescent, and the SANE-P, which allows you to use the credential Board-Certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners-Pediatric. Many employers will hire a registered nurse as a forensic nurse without these credentials at the time of hire, but you will probably be required to complete the training before your probationary period is completed. You will need to write an exam, maintain professional standards and renew your certifications every three years.

Tips and Advice

Forensic nurses assist in the care of persons who have experienced a violent attack, including self-harm, a workplace accident, a traffic accident, consult on issues related to care that patient's received in facilities, public health and safety issues and in death investigations. Forensic nurses may be called on to give legal evidence in cases of abuse and neglect, murder and suicide, accidents and disasters. They may work with children, adolescents, adults and seniors. These nurses can find employment in hospitals, clinics, mental health facilities, corrections, insurance companies and investigators and they may consult with lawyers or be retained by a lawyer.

Forensic nurses need to become skilled interviewers, so you should look for job opportunities that will allow you to develop these skills, especially in a health care or insurance setting. If you have not yet completed your nursing degree, you can look for opportunities to volunteer in peer health programs or as a distress or crisis intervention worker. Other students have found both volunteer and paid opportunities as victim's advocates, or they have worked in hospitals as patient care assistants.

If you have completed your nursing degree or diploma, you will need to pursue at least one to two years as a nurse in an emergency department, trauma or acute care department. You should also have experience dealing with Medicare and insurance claims. You may also decide to pursue additional education, even though it is not always a requirement for entry-level forensic nursing positions. Forensic nurses will also be asked to examine institutional policies, patient records and insurance, and conduct audits of information, so experience with many different types of health care documents, as well as the ability to read them incisively is also an asset.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nationwide, registered nurses earned an average of thirty-four to thirty-seven dollars an hour, and the wages varied between the industry of the employer and the state where the nurses were employed.