July 16, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
Like all other nurses, the primary job of a forensic nurse is to treat and attend to injured and ill patients. However, in addition to the treatment, these professionals often also have another agenda. They act as liaisons between the justice system and the medical field, gathering evidence from their patients, who are often the victims of the crime. As a forensic nurse, you would be trained to look for signs of a crime in patients, and you would be responsible for collecting evidence that may be used as proof of the alleged crimes.
A forensic nurse’s main role is that of a healthcare provider. They are often required to assess and treat minor injuries and illnesses in their patients and are sometimes required to assist physicians in more complex procedures. While providing treatment, however, a forensic nurse will also look for unusual signs if “foul play” is suspected. For example, this could be the case if a woman comes in for treating a bleeding nose or a black eye but other unusual symptoms or bruises are also found on other parts of her body. You would also be responsible for collecting crucial evidence in the event of a possible crime. In the case above, this could mean taking pictures of the bruises and recording your observations.
Forensic nurses are often given the responsibility for gathering evidence of assault, battery, sexual assault, neglect and several other disturbing crimes. During criminal trials, you may be called upon to deliver expert testimony where you will have to give your expert opinion and explain medical terminology and evidence to the jury in laymen’s terms.
While some forensic nurses work in medical settings, the majority of these nurses work in emergency rooms and urgent care centres, where a larger number of the patients are victims of crimes.
The pathway to becoming a forensic nurse is not always as straightforward as that of a traditional nurse. This is partly due to the fact that this is a relatively newer area of nursing and not all potential employers are aware of the benefits of having a forensic nurse on their staff. If your goal is to become a forensic nurse, you have a couple different options.
The first option is to complete nursing school and become an RN or a Registered Nurse, then take continuing education courses, consisting of classroom and clinical training, which are offered at various colleges or at some healthcare facilities.
The second option is to register in a school that offers a master’s degree program in Forensic Nursing.
To become certified, you can then take a certification exam. One such exam is the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) certification exam, which is offered by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).
As expected, working in an emergency healthcare setting can be extremely stressful and you will find yourself always on the go. It often involves working long hours and extended shifts. Witnessing the constant line-up of victims of monstrous crimes increases the stress factor manifold. However, when you know that you are responsible for putting away yet another dangerous criminal, it is also very rewarding and satisfying work.