If you want to help victims of violence as a healthcare practitioner then you can consider a career as a forensic nurse. In this profession, you’ll have the opportunity to care for those who have been traumatized by sexual abuse and other forms of violence. It’s a career where the medical and legal fields intersect as you will be tasked to collect evidence for a possible testimony in court while at the same time assess the victim’s injuries and provide that much-needed emotional support. In your capacity as a forensic nurse, you will frequently be working with other members of a healthcare team as well as law enforcement personnel.
In order to succeed in this career, you must know how to deal with emergency situations as victims of abuse are often brought to the hospitals already fighting for their lives. You should also be compassionate and know how to empathize with the difficulties faced by these patients. This job also requires you to be emotionally stable as responding to abuse and battery cases can be very stressful.
Why Become A Forensic Nurse
One reason to become a forensic nurse is to be able to combine your knowledge and interest in both the healthcare and legal professions under one umbrella. There is also a sense of fulfillment in knowing that you are an integral part in a victim’s recovery and even her willingness to send her abusers to jail. As a profession, the employment outlook of nurses is also positive in the coming years.
Forensic Nurse Work Environment
Forensic nurses typically work in hospitals, crisis centers, government agencies, anti-violence advocacy groups, coroner’s offices and correctional institutions. Shift work is common as nurses are required to provide care around the clock. If you happen to be on call or your services are required, you may be called upon to respond to emergencies any time of the day or night. The court is also a common work area for forensic nurses since they are often called upon to provide testimonies in various cases.
Forensic Nurse Salary
No specific data exists from the government on the pay of forensic nurses. However, the May 2013 Occupational Employment and Wages report of US Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that the mean annual wage of registered nurses is $68,910. However, it is expected that forensic nurses receive more than the median because a special certification in forensic nursing is needed before one can practice the profession. Aside from the basic pay, registered nurses—forensic nurses included—usually receive bonuses and childcare and educational benefits.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected that the employment rate of registered nurses is set to grow 19 percent in the ten-year period covering 2012 to 2022. This rate is faster than the average for all occupations. It does not yet have data available specifically for forensic nurses as this is a relatively new area of nursing specialty. Based on the postings of major job boards, however, it can be seen that there is a demand for forensic nurses.
Forensic Nurse Degree
The minimum educational requirement to become a forensic nurse is a bachelor of science in nursing degree. To be able to work as a registered nurse, nurses must also pass the National Council Licensure Examination or NCLEX-RN. While working as a registered nurse, the aspiring forensic nurse may obtain a certificate by enrolling in a forensic nursing program offered in some schools. Sometimes, the school may require aspiring forensic nurses to obtain a master’s degree first before they can enroll in a forensic nursing program.