Domestic Violence Nurse

Domestic violence nurses, often called domestic violence nurse examiner (DVNE), are specialists in the very new field of forensic nursing. Forensic nursing is still emerging, and is the most recently recognized nursing specialty by the American Nurses Association. Despite this, it is a very important field that links healthcare with the criminal justice system. People tend to associate the word “forensics” with murder and detective shows on television. But forensics can imply any association with criminality, and forensic nurses can also work with surviving victims of violence. These nurses are so important because not only do they provide the necessary medical care for victims of domestic violence, but they also are well trained at identifying and documenting evidence. This is very important to help victims when their abuser is tried in court.

All nurses are trained to spot signs of abuse in patients and are obligated to report signs of domestic violence, but these nurses focus specifically on helping this vulnerable population. Domestic violence can be defined as any abuse committed by an intimate partner. However, women, children, and the elderly make up the largest percentages of domestic violence victims. It is an insidious public health issue and is generally far more pervasive than most people assume, affecting people of all backgrounds, with millions of women affected every year.

Domestic violence nurses can work in many different places. Most of them work in hospital emergency rooms, but many also work in clinics or for advocacy groups that serve victims of domestic violence. Their duties are multi-faceted. Because it can be stressful for victims to see police officers, doctors, therapists, and nurses, domestic violence nurses can take on many of these duties. These duties typically consist of examining victims, assessing the extent of their injuries, documenting the injuries, and also providing the victims with information about intervention agencies and other resources. Mental health assessment is also part of their job as their patients have often been through traumatizing experiences. It is also imperative that they have good empathic and communication skills. Part of their job is providing care with empathy and making traumatized victims comfortable as they reveal their injuries and experience.

You can enter domestic violence nursing at many levels. Becoming a licensed registered nurse is the first step. You can become an RN by earning your associate degree in nursing at a two year college or vocational school, or by earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from a four year college or university. Once you graduate, passing the licensing exam from the state in which you wish to practice is required. Many domestic violence nurses also train to be certified as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). This is a more focused domestic violence nurse, and one of the most common sub-specialties of forensic nursing. General forensic courses at the undergraduate and graduate level are now offered at more and more nursing schools. Topics that forensics courses cover include criminology, criminal justice, evidence documentation and preservation, and evidence photography, to name a few. Certification in Forensic Nursing is also offered at select institutions. While not required, it is a positive step toward a career as a DVNE as it demonstrates knowledge and commitment to the field.

According to payscale.com, the average salary for a forensic nurse can range from roughly $25 an hour to nearly $100. Generally forensic nursing salary information is limited because the specialty is still growing and developing so much. Salary will also vary greatly based on your education, experience, geographic location and employer. It is well known that nursing in general has been facing many shortages. This is very much true, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing will continue to be one of the fastest growing professions. Nursing specialties that require additional training or education will grow even more. While forensic nursing in general is still an emerging field, it will continue to grow as it fills an important gap between providing healthcare and ensuring justice for victims of crime. Sadly, domestic violence shows no signs of abating and victims will need strong and well-trained advocates to work with them. This is a job that could potentially be very emotionally difficult, but if helping domestic violence victims is something you feel passionate about, get your nursing degree and forensic training from the right school and you can make a difference.

(Sources: P. Willson: "Domestic Violence: Are Nurses Hiding the Facts?" The Internet Journal of Advanced Nursing Practice - 1998 Volume 2 Number 1, American Forensic Nurses, Domestic Violence Research Center)

Featured Online Forensic Nursing Programs

Monmouth University - Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies

Monmouth University offers a Post-Bachelor's Certificate in Forensic Nursing Online. The Monmouth University - Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

Programs Offered: Certificate - Forensic Nursing (Online)

Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing

Baccalaureate and Master's Program Accreditation: CCNE and NLNAC

Programs Offered: Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - Forensic Nursing (Offered Online)

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