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Acquiring a Forensic Nursing Degree

Candidates desirous of pursuing a forensic nursing degree will acquire, in addition to being capable of performing regular nursing functions, also other nursing skills: gathering forensic evidence that would be used in crime analysis, preserving and documenting evidence while treating patients, etc. They will be also equipped professionally to counsel those who are affected by violent crimes in which they could have been subjected to assaults as well.

There are 2 types of forensic nursing programs offered in the USA: Those who are interested in pursuing a career in Forensic Nursing can opt either for a Forensic Nursing Certification Program or for a Master of Science in Forensic Nursing.

Forensic Nursing Certification Programs
These programs are typically offered by way of extension and or continuing education departments in Universities that offer a 4-year degree program and are open to registered nurses and by the International Association of Forensic Nurses' Forensic Nursing Certification Board. The Board awards certifications in Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Adult/Adolescent and Pediatric fields. In order to qualify, the participants should qualify in the examination conducted in this regard.

Only certified and trained nursing professionals would be acceptable for opting to a forensic nursing degree program and those who are vocational nurses (LVN), registered nurses (RN), assistants to physicians and licensed paramedics are entitled to pursue these programs.

The course content for these programs will typically cover the following subjects:

  • Introduction to forensic science
  • Forensic approaches to firearm injuries
  • Preservation of Crime scene
  • Testimony procedures relating to Courtroom proceedings
  • Issues relating to forensic photography
  • Advanced practices on forensic nursing
Forensic Nursing Degree - Masters of Science in Forensic Nursing
Furensic Nurse

While the core subjects remain the same as that of a certification program in nursing, the degree program differs in that it incorporates advanced courses in nursing theory, practice, which also includes clinical nursing.

A baccalaureate (BSN) is a prerequisite for becoming eligible to apply for Master of Science Degree in Forensic Nursing. Besides fulfilling the requirement of a Registered Nurse for applying to the program, they should have taken or take MAT or GRE, give letters of reference, etc. for becoming eligible to be admitted.

While there could be variations in the course content of the forensic nursing degree programs, depending upon the syllabus tailored by universities, all of them would cover, in one way or another, the following subjects:

  • Nursing theories, including advanced concepts
  • Interventions in forensic nursing that include interpersonal violence.
  • Forensic nursing in relation to victim, perpetrator Care
  • Psychophysiology
  • Introduction to criminal law and justice and other legal aspects specific to forensics
  • Submission of a research paper in nursing to follow thesis need.

The duration of a M.Sc. degree will ordinarily be two years, but part-time students could take more time.

On-line Certification Program in Forensic Nursing:

On-line courses in forensic nursing are designed to help working professionals who already hold a bachelor's degree. They can be completed in a period ranging between 9 and 24 months. Most of the tutoring takes place on-line but some schools stipulate occasional on-site attendance. In addition, clinical requirements could vary from school to school.

There are several schools in the USA offer online certification in forensic nursing. The costs vary from school to school and hence it may not be befitting to generalize it.

It should, however, be noted that those who would like to pursue on-line should have or acquire basic computer competencies. Since the courses are delivered on-line that includes audio/video presentations they should have a PC with multimedia capabilities and fast internet connections.

Career Opportunities

Due to the specialized nature of the qualifications obtained through forensic nursing degree programs, forensic nurses are on demand not only in hospitals but also beyond that which includes employment with Police forces and law enforcing agencies. At present, in the USA many who have specialized in this area are retiring, which brings the potential for newly qualified entrants. There is always a demand from the state agencies. However, a limitation in this regard needs to be mentioned here. Most of the demands from such agencies emanate from States where the crime rates are higher, which means these nurses would have to work in densely populated areas. When they opt for work where the incidences of crime are lower, it also means spending more time in travel. Overall the monetary compensation is fair enough for most of them earn over $50,000 per annum.

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