Forensic Nurse

Forensic nurses perform more specialized tasks than other nurses. They perform the variety of roles and evaluate critical cases. What do they do? Learn here in the forensic nurse job descriptions and salary.

$53,107 - $89,299
AVG    Annual    SALARY
$4,425 – $7,441
AVG    Monthly    SALARY
$25.00 - $40.59
AVG    Hourly    SALARY

Forensic Nurse Salary And Job Description

Forensic nursing was not recognized even until the early 1990s. It is a comparatively new area of specialization for the nurses. When it first began, there were only about 70 nurses working in the field. However, it has now grown much beyond the earlier numbers. Their main roles include providing specialized care to patients who have been victims of abuse and violence such as intimate partner violence, sexual assault, domestic violence and sexual injuries. They are trained in a rather different manner as compared to the regular nurses which help them collect the required medical evidence in an efficient manner. They also have a regular involvement in the criminal justice system.

They offer their services in emergency rooms and are required to possess skills such as critical thinking, emotional stability, and patience for a well structured and fast-paced treatment to the patients. They are required to be highly research oriented and have the presence of mind to collect enough physical and forensic evidence such as blood and DNA samples from the patients, analyze the social and psychological damage and host educational programs that could help in the prevention of such attacks in future. They hold long interviews with the patients and collaborate with police, lawyers, and doctors for the information collection and. They may also appear as witnesses during the during the court trials to justify violence.

How To Become A Forensic Nurse And Education Requirements

To become a forensic nurse, the candidate is required to complete the required educational courses, training and receive licensing by cracking the national level exams. Before opting for employment as a forensic nurse, the candidates are first required to complete either one of the following – degree in Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Associate degree or a diploma in the training program. Furthermore, they should pass the NCLEX – RN examination with qualifying marks before getting enrolled in the postgraduate courses for obtaining a degree in Master of Science Nursing. These programs include both classroom lectures and field work and are designed to expand knowledge in the field of sexual assault, domestic violence, community safety and legal investigations.

Given below is a step by step guide for obtaining the Education requirement to being a forensic nurse.

1. Completion Of Bachelor’s Degree

The bachelor of nursing program usually takes 4 years for completion. These courses are geared towards honing skills such as performing a clinical evaluation, situational analysis and honing the critical thinking skills. The candidates can choose to specialize in the field of pharmacology, clinical nutrition, pathophysiology, pediatric and adult health patterns and physical assessment. The candidates are also given practicums to familiarize them in areas such as critical care, obstetrics, surgical nursing, pediatrics, community health, and psychiatry.

2. Obtaining The Credential For Registered Nursing

In order the obtain the credentials of a Registered Nurse, the candidates are required to complete their courses from state-approved institutions, which makes them eligible to appear for the NCLEX-RN Examinations governed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing or NCSBN.

3. Postgraduate Course

After the completion of a graduate course, the nurses can either choose to take up a Master of Science in Nursing program with more emphasis on forensics or a short certification program for forensic nursing. These programs are available in multiple nursing schools as a continuing education program for post-graduation. These courses include classroom education, lectures as well as a practicum. On completing the coursework, the nurses are required to participate in injury assessment, performing a detailed examination of the trauma, evidence collection and collaborate in law imposition. This is to prepare them for taking up responsibilities as a legal consultant, nurse psychiatric, nurse coroner and investigators during death and disaster.

4. Employment And Certification Renewal

After the completion of the postgraduate program, the nurses are free to seek employment. The candidates who are interested in continuing their education can also opt for a SANE-A or a SANE – P certification, which is acquired by cracking written exams. In this case, they are required to renew their certification after every three years. Furthermore, the candidates are required to stay updated in forensic nursing at all times by participating in seminars, webinars, and other online/offline courses.

How Long Does It Take To Be A Forensic Nurse?

From the starting of bachelors’ program to the completion of the postgraduate program, it can take approximately 6 years to become a forensic nurse. This will render them eligible to start practicing in their field. However, the interested candidates can also choose to continue their education instead of taking up employment.

What Does A Forensic Nurse Do?

Forensic nursing can be ideal for the aspiring nurses who are interested in going beyond the regular nursing duties and take up an approach from the angle of law enforcement. The occupation is more of a combination of healthcare and judicial profession. They also performed highly specialized duties as compared to the regular nurses.  The primary role of a forensic nurse is to provide immediate treatment to patients who have been subjected to traumas, abuse, and violence. At the same time, they are also required to collect forensic evidence that could come useful during the trials.

They perform their duties while closely following the chain of custody so that the evidence collected is relevant enough to be produced in front of the court. Oftentimes, people working in the forensic nursing are also asked to appear in courts as witnesses in order to testify the medical information and other evidence that has been obtained from the patient. The American Forensic Association mentions sexual assault as the largest area of specialization in forensic nurse jobs. Due to the nature of their jobs, forensic nurses tend to have frequent brushes with the criminal justice system.

Forensic Nurse Practitioner Job Description

A forensic nurse practitioner can take up after multiple career paths which can play a large role in determining their job descriptions.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

A sexual assault nurse investigators are also known as sexual assault forensic nurse investigator. Their main role is to offer immediate medical care and psychological support to the victims while also collecting evidence that could come useful during the prosecution of the abuser. Due to an involvement in the legal system and emotionally unstable patients, this is one of the most sensitive jobs for the forensic nurses.

The work environments could be challenging and often requires the participation of multiple disciplines such as attorneys, doctors and other hospital personnel, law enforcement officials and advocates. The involved members generally work as a team while navigating through the examination.

Sexual assault nurse examiners are required to collect physical evidence and take photographs of the patient and the crime scene and preserve them. This evidence is presented to the court when required. If they have been personal witnesses at the crime scene, they may also testify in courts for the same. The nurses may specialize both in the adult as well pediatric victims.

Interpersonal Violence

Although the interpersonal violence mainly spans sexual assault, the forensic nurse examiner can also choose to specialize in elder abuse, child abuse, and domestic violence. They are required to be very skilled in the collection and documentation of evidence concerning the criminal activity. While providing the medical care, it is also the duty and responsibility of the nurses involved in this area to plan for the safety and legal protection of the patients. Forensic nurses are also hired by public agencies that have a role in providing protection to the vulnerable patients. In such cases, the forensic nurses provide guidance with the legal undertakings. Sometimes, they may also act as educators in the field of public safety.

Death Investigators

In some cases, a certified forensic nurse may acts as the main person in charge during cases of unexpected death. Here, they are required to conduct vital medical examinations in order to correctly identify the cause of death. They may collect the full history medical history of the dead and information about the scene where the death has occurred. The information obtained is then summed up and used for drawing a conclusion about the possible reasons for death. The analysis and conclusions made by the death investigators can come also come useful in the legal proceedings.

Forensic Psychiatric And Correctional Nurses

These are the forensic nurses who work with the offenders during a crime. They take medical examinations of the person, look for signs of mental illness and decide upon their future course. To work in this area, it is very important for the nurses to have the reliable psychiatric knowledge and develop a treatment plan accordingly. They may also have a role in deciding the probation for the offenders.

Nurse Attorneys

The main job of nurse attorneys is to provide legal consulting to the patients and their guardians. They can either take care of the entire legal proceedings by themselves or act as advisors to the lawyers. They are called upon whenever there has been a case of malpractice. Forensic nurses offer their expertise in areas such as patient rights, birth injuries, informed consent, standards of care and various procedures in the hospitals.

Forensic Nurse Salary

According to a survey conducted by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics or the BLS, the average annual salary of a forensic nurse was $67,490 while the hourly salary was $39.1 This is the median Yearly salary and the payments are likely to be anywhere in between $53,107 to $89,299. 2 The organization in which the nurses are working, education, skills, state legislation and the location of work, all tend to have a role in determining how well the nurses get paid.

Due to this being a relatively new field of specialization for the nurses, there are many job vacancies and the career opportunities are expected to grow even more in the future. However, there is also a lack of enough data and information for the assessment of the correct pay scale. Salary by experience

The average starting salary for entry-level forensic nurses was $75,699 as of January 2018. The nurses in their mid-career had an average salary of $125,400. The forensic nurses in the late stage of their career had average annual earnings of $194,000.  3

Salary By Employer

It is mainly the general as well as surgical hospitals that have the highest demand for forensic nurses. As per the report prepared by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, these hospitals paid the forensic nurses an average salary of $103,846. However, they also tend to have job opportunities in local and state government departments, companies and non-profit organizations where they were paid $73,000, $55,000 and $112,500 respectively. 4

Salary By State

According to the same report prepared by the US Bureau of Labour Statistics, New York, California and Texas were three of the highest paying by the state for forensic nurses. California paid its nurses an annual salary of $98,400 while Texas and New York paid comparatively smaller Wages of $68,590 and $77,110 respectively. Hawaii and Massachusetts also had quite a good pay scale, with an average annual salary of $88,230 and $85,770 respectively. The states with lowest average salary hourly included Nebraska, Iowa, West Virginia, Alabama and Tennessee which had average salaries between the range of $33,740 and $57,830.

Highest Forensic Nurse Salary Paying States:
California $98,400
Texas $68,590
New York $77,110
Hawaii $88,230
Massachusetts $85,770
Lowest Forensic Nurse Salary Paying States:
Alabama $58,000
Iowa $56,000
Nebraska $42,000
West Virginia $54,000


Most of the forensic nurses work with victims of sexual and domestic abuse. The victims are usually very traumatized and in an unstable frame of mind. Therefore, the nurses should have the skills to handle such patients in a very careful and sensitive manner. They should also have the presence of mind to collect all the evidence that could be relevant to the crime. The nurses can choose the work with children as well as adults and even in post-mortem work. The demand for forensic nurses is rapidly increasing and is expected to grow by 16% between the years 2014 and 2024.

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