Forensic Nurse Examiners
Forensic nursing is a fairly new specialty in nursing, and is becoming more recognized in the field for its valuable contribution to solving crimes and helping victims of violent crime. There are many sub-specialties of forensic nursing, but its main focus is connecting healthcare with law enforcement and the judicial system. They bring their knowledge of the law and collecting evidence to their medical exams, and their medical knowledge to the judicial side with their expert testimony. Throughout their job, their focus is also on the victim and their emotional healing as well as their physical healing and justice. In fact, when forensic nurses are involved, conviction of perpetrators is much more likely.
Forensic Nurse Examiners Job Description
Forensic nurse examiners (FNE) are responsible for collecting evidence from victims of crime as well as testifying in court as expert witnesses. They are there to not only examine, but also support and help victims of violence or sexual violence. They can work with adults or children, and are usually trained specifically for whichever group they focus on helping. They have advanced knowledge of evidence collection, preservation, and documentation, all of which are extremely important for the prosecution. They understand the legal proceedings that will follow and what is necessary to effectively prosecute the perpetrators. They are also trained in sensitivity. Previously, victims of any violent crime were most likely in an ER or examined by a medical professional who was not trained in sensitivity or in collecting evidence. This results in not only a higher likelihood of the perpetrator walking free, but can also leave the victim feeling further victimized, vulnerable, and can make victims less likely to seek help when they need it.
One of the largest subsets of victims is sexual assault victims. For this, FNEs need to have their SANE certification, which stands for sexual assault nursing examiner. This can be further specialized as SANE-A or SANE-P, which stands for adult or pediatric. Interpersonal violence is an insidious and pervasive problem throughout the country, and proper examining is an integral part toward tackling this in hospitals as well as courtrooms. In 1995, the American Nurses Association officially recognized forensic nursing as a specialty of nursing. In April 2002, the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) held the first international certification exam.
Training and Education for Forensic Nurse Examiners
The path toward becoming a forensic nurse examiner begins with becoming a registered nurse (RN). You can become an RN by either earning your associate degree in nursing over two to three years, or by earning your bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from a college or university, which requires four years. You must also obtain your license from the state in which you wish to practice nursing. Once you are an RN, pursuing a specialty involves continuing education. There are forensic nurse certification courses that culminate with a certification exam. Some states have very specific certification exams for sexual assault examiners, pediatric, and adolescent examiners. Certification is voluntary, but is very important because not only does it give you credibility and prove your knowledge and expertise, but it also sets standards across the board for forensic nurse examiners. There are forensic nursing courses offered by universities and continuing education programs, as well as masters of science in nursing courses that focus on forensics. These courses cover forensic mental health, criminology, interpersonal violence, collecting evidence, and criminal justice, to name a few topics. It involves 40 hours of training as well as clinical training, and then passing an exam. Additionally, certification must be renewed every three years, either by retaking the exam or through more training.
Forensic Nurse Examiner Salary
Average forensic nursing salaries are difficult to provide because it is such a new specialty and they can vary so much, depending on employer, region, and experience. Due to the additional education and training, they are higher than mean salaries for registered nurses. Because it is a newer specialty, there is not a lot of documentation about mean salary, with some hourly salaries ranging from $25 an hour to $100 an hour. According to salaryexpert.com, the salary in major cities can range from $65,000 to $73,000. The outlook for this specialty is excellent. Nursing in general is one of the fastest growing occupations, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And, like most of healthcare, nursing is becoming more and more specialized to more accurately fill needs of the population. Forensic nursing is gaining more and more respect and will continue to be an important field as an aid to crime victims and the law enforcement officials prosecuting the perpetrators.
It is undoubtedly an emotionally trying specialty, but it is an important one and can potentially be very fulfilling to help people in such a vulnerable position. If this is a path for you, get started now on earning your RN, or pursue your continuing education and earn your certification in forensic nursing and become a forensic nurse examiner.