Forensic Geriatric Nursing Career

Forensic geriatric nurses care for elderly patients, often in cases of abuse, exploitation, or neglect. These nurses often work in retirement communities or in nursing home facilities, but they can have their own practice as well. Similar to pediatric forensic patients, geriatric patients depend often on caretakers who help them with tasks associated with daily living. Therefore, they are in a vulnerable position and not always in a position to advocate for themselves when they are being harmed or mistreated. Forensic nurses working with this subset of patients are there to help them, recognize abuse, and help law enforcement in the case.

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Forensic nursing is still a developing field. While it was officially recognized by the American Nurses Association in 1995 and certification programs have been available for several years, not all hospitals and institutions employ forensic nurses, and many people are not familiar with the work they do and its value. All specialties of forensic nurses incorporate law enforcement into their nursing care. Whether they are assisting victims of violence, treating the dangerously mentally ill, or investigating a suspicious death, they are well trained in not only medical exams and sensitive nursing care, but also in evidence collection and preservation, and in the importance of medical exams in prosecuting offenders. Their expert testimony is extremely important in successfully prosecuting offenders, and they are often called to testify in court. Forensic nurses usually choose a specialty, be it by crime (such as sexual assault) or by patient population (such as pediatric or geriatric) and focus exclusively on that.

According to forensic nurse magazine, every year as many as ten percent of older Americans are abused or exploited, often by other relatives. Elder abuse is rarely something that is witnessed, so these nurses rely on forensic signs to discover abuse. This is even more difficult with older patients, because the line between disease and neglect can be difficult to determine. Because of advanced age, elder abuse or neglect can have a larger impact than it would on a younger individual, and often the unexplained death of an older person is not as thoroughly investigated. There is also not a lot of data on elder abuse. Despite the newness of this field, forensic geriatric nurses are experts at identifying signs of abuse while treating older patients, and skilled at overcoming possible common obstacles, such as the diminished capacity of the patient, the patient’s fear of retaliation, or the patient’s desire to protect the wrongdoer, who is often a family member.

Job Outlook and Salaries for Forensic Geriatric Nurses

According to, forensic nurse average salaries in major U.S. cities range from $65,767 to $73,855. There is not a lot of documentation on average forensic nurse specialty salaries because it is still very much a developing field. However they can range from anywhere from $25 an hour to $100 an hour. Like most nursing positions, salary can depend on location, employer, and of course how much experience and education you bring to your position. The outlook for this specialty is good. There are not a tremendous amount of forensic nursing positions, because not all institutions employ them. However it is a growing field, and an important one that fills a gap. As the nursing profession grows to fill gaps in the nursing shortage, forensic nursing will too. If you with to combine forensics with nursing, this could be a specialization for you.

Forensic Geriatric Nurse Education and Training

To pursue this specialty in forensics you will first need to be a registered nurse. If you are not yet an RN, you can pursue this degree by earning your bachelor’s of science in nursing, or by earning your associate degree in nursing from a community college in a shorter time frame. Once you have earned your nursing license in your state, continuing education in forensic nursing is ideal. If no nursing program near you offers courses in forensic nursing, you can pursue courses online or distance learning. Certification and continuing education in forensics is voluntary and not required, but it would give you additional training and experience and make you much more competitive in your job search. Most forensics courses are similar, focusing on looking for evidence, recognizing signs of abuse, dealing with victims, preserving and documenting evidence, and testifying. Within each program, there are usually individual courses focusing on subspecialties such as geriatric forensic nursing. Get started now on your nursing degree or advanced education, and you can have a rewarding career in forensic nursing. This is a career that will always be needed, but because it is still growing, you need as much training as possible to be competitive.

Accredited Online Nursing Programs for Forensic Geriatric Nurses

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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(Sources:,, Forensic Nursing: A Handbook for Practice, by Rita M. Hammer, Barbara )