A forensic nurse is a person with the medical training of a nurse, the investigative knowledge of a detective, and the courtroom skills of a lawyer. If that sounds like a lot, well, it is. But most people who go into forensic nursing are already registered nurses and have chosen to take their nursing career one step further into this fascinating branch which combines nursing with legal investigation and representation.
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Kaplan University has an online self-study program leading to a certificate in Forensic Nursing that usually can be completed within a year. The Certificate can lead to jobs in coroners' offices, social services, hospitals and law enforcement.
While some forensic nurses do work with dead bodies (searching for clues that reveal the cause of death, ala Quincy), there are many other jobs in the field. You could work as a sexual assault nurse, an expert witness in criminal cases, a death investigator, or a community activist providing education in schools and other locations. Regardless of the particular area you choose, your job will most likely include providing emotional support to crime victims while also collecting and documenting evidence that can be used to convict the criminal.
The salary of a forensic nurse ranges from $26 to $100 per hour, depending on experience and geographic area. Since the first point of contact is usually a hospital, that is where most forensic nurses are found. Thus the hospital often determines the salary which can be as little as 1 ½ times that of a regular RN. Larger hospitals with forensic labs and a more active role in investigative procedures will be likely to pay higher salaries.
The easiest way to get the education needed to become a forensic nurse is to start as an RN and enroll in a training program specifically for forensic nurses. In fact, most such programs require a person to have the RN as a pre-requisite. Most schools with a forensic nursing degree program can assist you in obtaining a Master of Science in Forensic Nursing in as little as two years. Furthermore, the advance of online education has made it possible to earn your forensic nursing degree entirely online and to customize your degree for the area of forensic nursing most attractive to you.