A nurse coroner is a type of forensic nurse who assists the coroner in determining the cause of death, time of death, if there was foul play. They can also assist police at a crime scene. In addition to their medical knowledge, they have a good understanding of evidence collection, forensic photography, and subsequent legal proceedings. A successful nurse coroner will need to be skilled in pathology, physiology, observation, preservation, and documentation of evidence, and in understanding subsequent legal and criminal proceedings for violent crimes should they be needed to testify.
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Forensic Nursing is one of the most recently recognized nurse specialties by the American Nurses Association. The International Association of Forensic Nurses was not formed until 1992, and it was officially recognized as a specialty by the American Nurses Association in 1995. It is still very much a developing field, but one of importance that is gaining ground and respect. Forensic nursing is the link between healthcare and the criminal justice system, and a nurse coroner is one of the more common jobs in forensic nursing.
How to Become a Nurse Coroner
The path toward becoming a nurse coroner begins with becoming a registered nurse (RN). If you are not yet an RN, the time is now to pursue your options for earning your associate degree in nursing (ASN, ADN) at a community or vocational college, or earning your bachelor’s of science in nursing (BSN) at a four year college or university. Once you have completed your nursing degree and earned your nursing license from the state in which you want to practice, you can pursue continuing education in forensic nursing. There are forensic nursing programs available through both distance learning and through many nursing schools around the country. Specific courses detailing nurse coroners are available, in addition to broader forensic nursing courses.
Certification is the next step. The Forensic Nursing Certification Board (FNCB) was created in 2002, helping those interested in this field gain credibility and establishing guidelines for forensic nursing sub-specialties. Certification as a forensic nurse is not required, but is looked upon very highly and would make you more competitive in this field. Certification not only strengthens your resume in the job market, but it demonstrates to colleagues that you are committed to expertise in your field and up on the latest developments in forensic nursing.
Mean salary information is difficult to pinpoint for forensic nurses in any sub-specialty because it is such a new field of nursing. It depends a great deal on employer and geographic region, but according to salary.com, a forensic nurse’s salary can range from $25 an hour to as high as $100 an hour. The website salaryexpert.com provides average salaries for major cities that start at $65,000 and range to $73,000. This is a quickly developing field in an already expanding healthcare industry. While it can involve sensitive issues, it can be rewarding and demanding. If you are a nurse interested in forensics, or interested in becoming an RN and seeking a specialty and are curious about forensics, get started now and a rewarding career in healthcare can be yours. Becoming a nurse coroner might be the perfect for you.
(Sources: American Forensic Nurses, The Forensic Nurse)