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What Is Forensic Nursing and How Can It Help?


Forensic nursing may be a good fit if you empathise with abuse victims and believe justice must be served. Violence is a persistent social and health issue; nurses specializing in forensics link the healthcare and legal systems. For those who enjoy a good crime drama, the term “forensics” and its implications are probably familiar. But you’re probably wondering: Are forensic nurses called to crime scenes? Do they assist with criminal investigations? A criminalist’s nurse is what kind of nurse? How to become a forensic nurse in the UK? Forensic nursing could be a perfect fit if you want to work in healthcare and the criminal justice system.

This guidance will take a closer look at the profession of forensic nursing Uk jobs. We’ll go over how to become a Forensic Nurse, the average salary, the job description, precious knowledge about forensic nursing, and more.

What is Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing is the global application of nursing when health and legal arrangements collide. It is a relatively new but rapidly expanding speciality area in forensic nursing UK. Forensic nurses play an important role in both law and universal health care. They provide care to crime victims and gather evidence to aid in prosecution. For example, when caring for a victim of domestic violence, a forensic nurse takes notes on the patient’s condition and gathers any physical evidence in a way that meets legal evidence standards.

Virginia Lynch, the mother of forensic nursing, became interested in the field after visiting a crime lab in 1982. According to her, evidence such as clothing, specimens, and records are extremely important but frequently lost to authorities while the victim is treated in a medical facility. Lynch believed nurses are ideal forensic professionals because of their biological and social sciences education and communication and crisis intervention skills.

Forensic nurses are the first to recognize the type of injury, such as trauma, neglect, accident, abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, etc. While this is the intersection of health and law, forensic nursing also draws on other disciplines such as pharmacology, pathophysiology, public health, criminology, mental health, traumatology, victimology, and ethics. 

This forensic Registered Nurses career path has grown in popularity over the last few decades, with origins dating back to the 1980s. However, the American Association of Nurses (ANA) and the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) co-publish the first standards and scope of practice guidelines for this dynamic forensic nursing job in 2009. Overall, they describe this nursing role as critical in gathering evidence, counselling victims, and ultimately delivering justice to violent criminals.

What is a Forensic Nurse?

A forensic nurse is a registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) specialising in forensic science. They serve as the first point of contact between a crime victim and the healthcare system. And they collect physical evidence for criminal investigations from the bodies of victims of physical injury and violence, both living and dead. They consult, collaborate, and communicate with law enforcement agencies and can be called on to testify as expert witnesses in court. As a criminalist’s nurse, you care for victims of violent crimes.

The registered nurse (RN) will not only collect evidence in a hospital setting but may also be taken to crime scenes to collect evidence, blood, and tissue samples. The forensic nurse will also be important in trauma victims’ physical and emotional recovery. Domestic violence, sexual assault, and child or elder abuse or neglect victims may require psychological treatment following the incident. They may also assist in the psychiatric evaluation of offenders and suspects, determining whether or not they are fit for trial. A role may also be played in non-criminal matters. For example, the forensic nurse may communicate with the family of potential organ donors to ensure that all legal paperwork is completed. 

Forensic nursing jobs may be the right career for you if you want to help victims navigate the justice system

What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?

Forensic nurses are healthcare providers who assist in the care of victims of violent crime. They treat any injuries while gathering crucial evidence for law enforcement to use in prosecution. In addition, forensic nurses collaborate with pathologists and coroners to determine the cause of death and to identify vital statistics and epidemiology trends. Becoming a forensic nurse in the UK have several responsibilities, including assessing and caring for victims of assault, domestic violence, child and elder abuse, neglect, and sexual offenses. Registered nurses (RN) are involved with crime victims to:

  • Gather evidence.
  • Provide expert testimony in court (when needed).
  • Treat injuries. 

Forensic nursing is distinct in that it combines the healthcare and criminal justice fields, allowing nurses to have a double impact on the daily lives of those they serve. Some of your forensic nursing jobs responsibilities may include:

  • Gather evidence:

Evidence is being gathered from the victim’s body. If you’ve ever watched a crime show on television, you’ve probably seen forensic investigators collecting evidence from deceased victims. Forensic nurses perform the same procedure on living victims. For example, they may be tasked with collecting sperm samples from rape victims and photographing domestic abuse victims’ injuries. They must employ specialized techniques to collect and preserve evidence that will be accepted in court. It is less traumatic for victims to have a healthcare professional gather evidence than a police officer.

  • Provide expert testimony in court:

Being a forensic nurse in the UK, Providing victims with compassionate care. Criminalist nurses do more than just collect evidence to present to authorities. They provide support both emotionally and physically to victims. This can include listening to a victim’s story about what happened to them. Mental health is critical during this difficult period in his or her life. Criminalist nurses may refer victims to additional support resources for ongoing emotional healing. They make it a point to be advocates for their patients.

  • Treat injuries:

When called to testify in court. Forensic nurses can be called expert witnesses in court to describe their findings. During the examination and treatment, they may be asked questions about the evidence and the victim’s mental state. They can be an important witness for prosecutors and help victims get the justice they deserve.

Let’s take a closer look at the tasks that a nurse in this role can expect daily:

  • Key Responsibilities of forensic nursing:

  1. Assist survivors and their families.
  2. Collect and submit evidence for a criminal inquiry.
  3. Teamwork with law enforcement and testimony in court.
  4. Before referring patients to the next stage of medical treatment, examine them to assess and collect evidence of trauma and injuries.
  • Career Characteristics of forensic nursing:

  1. Capacity to cope with trauma.
  2. Critical thinking.
  3. Communication Skills.
  4. Compassion.
  5. Knowledge of criminal justice and legal systems.

Advanced forensic registered nurses also work as legal nurse consultants in the legal system, investigating and providing expert opinions for lawyers as they prepare their incidences.

Where Do Forensic Nurses Work?

A nurse specializing in forensics assists victims of abuse, domestic violence, neglect, and sexual assault. They also assist with courts of law, law enforcement, medical examiners, psychiatric patients, and public health organizations. Their extensive knowledge qualifies them for positions in anti-violence programs, coroner’s offices, prisons, and psychiatric institutions. Forensic nursing in the UK, most criminalist nurses work in emergency departments and sexual assault centres, treating adult and child victims of rape and sexual molestation. These nurses work alone, in groups, or are on call at all hours of the day and night. 

Forensic nurses work in Hospitals to document injuries and gather evidence from trauma survivors. Those with SANE certification treat sexual assault cases and file reports with police and protective services agencies.

Community Anti-Violence Programs programs help the most vulnerable people, including survivors of gang violence, domestic violence, and sexual assault. They may assist immigrants and refugees exploited in sex trafficking rings or hazardous workplace environments.

Nurses who work as Forensic Examiners or Coroners investigate causes of death, assist with autopsies, and gather evidence from corpses, clothing, and crime scenes in the UK’s forensic nursing sector.

Why Become a Forensic Nurse?

Forensic nurses combine healthcare and criminal justice training into a single specialized career. While constant exposure to trauma can be taxing, forensic nursing in the UK provides nurses with significant personal and professional fulfilment.

  • Advantages in forensic nursing:

  1. Making a difference in the lives of survivors, holding perpetrators accountable, and attempting to keep communities safe.
  2. Enhances registered nurse (RN) skills through forensic training in evidence collection, criminal procedures, and legal investigations.
  3. Too flexible schedules than other RN positions, which necessitate shift and evening work.
  4. Salary is higher than for other RN specialities between forensic nursing jobs.
  • Disadvantages in forensic nursing:

  1. Desensitization and burnout as a result of being exposed to extreme cases.
  2. The heavy workload includes nursing duties, detailed evidence documentation, legal reporting, and the pressure to achieve the required levels of accuracy and thoroughness.
  3. Vicarious trauma syndrome is characterized by feelings of grief, rage, and depression from high-stress levels from demanding working conditions.

How do you become a forensic nurse in 3 steps?

To become a nurse specializing in forensics, you must be self-motivated and compassionate. Because this nursing position will expose you to the darker aspects of human behavior, empathy and emotional fortitude are required. If you’re interested in becoming a forensic nurse in the UK, there are a few potential pathways you may pursue.

Step 1 – Get to be a registered nurse (RN):

To become a forensic nurse, you must obtain a registered nurse degree from an accredited college or nursing education program. You can earn your forensic nursing degree in a variety of ways, including:

  • Graduate with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) after completing a two-year associate’s program.
  • Bachelor of Science in Nursing from a four-year college or university (BSN). Becoming a forensic nurse in the UK, a bachelor’s degree program will open up more possibilities and provide opportunities to advance your career and expand the range of responsibilities you can take on.

If you already have an ADN and want to get your BSN, an RN to BSN bridge program may be right for you. It enables you to earn your BSN while continuing to work as a forensic nurse in the UK. By completing an Accelerated BSN program, bachelor’s degree holders in non-nursing subjects can fast-track into forensic nursing.


After completing your chosen nursing program, you must obtain your professional licensure. The NCLEX-RN exam is the only way to obtain a nursing license. It is the national exam for all nurses in Canada and the United States.

The NCLEX exam assesses nurses’ knowledge to determine whether they are qualified to practice as entry-level nurses. It consists of 75 to 265 questions in which you must apply what you learned in nursing school to real-life scenarios. It assesses critical thinking abilities and nursing-specific knowledge. Forensic nursing employers require clinical nursing experience. Each employer is different.

Step 2 – Accumulate experience:

After becoming an RN, you must spend a few years gaining relevant qualifications in forensic nursing. Working in an emergency room can enlighten you about many patients who have suffered physical trauma.


Aside from working as a registered  nurse in emergency care, some other healthcare settings where you can gain valuable skills and experience include:

  • Working with a coroner’s office allows you to gain valuable forensic evidence collection skills.
  • Working in prison can help you gain valuable experience working with people who have been victims of violent trauma.

The transition from correctional nurse to forensic nurse is one of the most straightforward for an RN. You have not only worked with victims of violent trauma, but you also have the bedside skills required to collect evidence while caring for the victim. Changing your speciality to forensic nursing may necessitate first completing forensic-focused continuing education courses. You may also want to obtain certifications to demonstrate your expertise in forensic nursing.

Step 3 – Obtain certifications:

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (SANEs) certifies sexual assault nurse examiners in two ways: SANE-A for adults and SANE-P for paediatrics. Furthermore, requiring at least two years of experience before taking the exam, the IAFN has additional requirements for nurses when applying for certification. They include:

  • Completing a SANE didactic course of 40 hours through an accredited provider.
  • Completing a SANE clinical preceptorship.
  • Accruing 300 hours of SANE-related practice in the last 3 years.

History of Nurse Prescribing

Any prescription for medication comes with a lot of responsibility, and until 1992, only doctors were allowed to write them.

Laws were changed in 1992 to allow community nurses to legally prescribe medications from the Extended Formulary for Nurse Prescribers.

Between 1997 and 2000, additional national reviews and reports concluded that nurse prescribers could increase the range of medications they could prescribe under the supervision of supplementary prescribing, a doctor-and-nurse partnership.

Prescription policies evolved along with the NHS’s structure and patients’ access to healthcare. Independent nurse prescribers were given the go-ahead to write prescriptions for any licensed drug for any ailment in 2006, according to the Department of Health.

What are the salary and career outlooks for forensic nurses?

RNs are among the most in-demand forensic nursing professions, with a 6% increase expected between 2021 and 2031. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for all RNs is $82,750. Becoming a forensic nurse in the UK may expect to earn an annual income of £30,971.

Before deciding where to pursue your forensic nursing job, research the highest-paying cities for forensic nurses and the average RN salary by state.


Forensic nursing is essentially the application of nursing techniques and methods to legal proceedings. The nurse will interact with law enforcement, government agencies, the community, and victims and offenders. In the earlier days of this field of work, forensic nursing focused primarily on sexual assault and cases of abuse. When processing a sexual assault victim, the forensic nurse will collect the victim’s clothing and other personal items. The victim’s hair and pubic region are combed to collect any trace evidence.

Many vaginal, anal, and maybe oral swabs will be collected from the victim. If required, the victim will be checked for physical injuries, recorded, and photographed using light sources. Forensic Nurses take samples of evidence, blood, and tissue from crime scenes. They may also be used to conduct mental evaluations of criminals and suspects. A role may be performed in non-criminal circumstances, such as organ donation in forensic nursing. The forensic nurse will communicate with the families of possible organ donors and manage the legal paperwork.

Did we miss anything? We want to make this Forensic Nursing article a comprehensive list of problems and solutions with traffic sources. If you know of something we missed, let us know with a comment below; we appreciate the input.


FAQs About Forensic Nursing

A nurse specializing in forensics is a registered nurse who applies nursing's holistic care to the body, mind, and spirit, as well as principles from the law, medicine, and science. A forensic patient has a medical problem and is involved with the legal system.

A forensic nurse provides complete care to victims of violence while demonstrating competency in conducting a medical forensic exam, including evidence collection evaluation; providing effective courtroom testimony; and demonstrating compassion and sensitivity to survivors of violence. The forensic nurse's primary goal during the examination is to ensure a patient's medical well-being.

Forensic nurses must be intuitive and have excellent clinical and interpersonal skills. They must also be well-organized to identify and preserve any evidence obtained from the victim. To withstand scrutiny in a court of law during the case's prosecution, the evidence must be preserved in an uncontaminated state. Forensic nurses must also be emotionally resilient to work objectively in traumatic and emotional circumstances. Criminalist nurses also contribute to the community. Accurate evidence collection increases prosecution, resulting in a healthier society. When a survivor seeks forensic nursing care, she learns that violence affects the entire community, not just the victims who seek professional help.

Although board certification is not required for most forensic nursing roles, it does demonstrate that you have the expert knowledge to meet the highest standards of practice. It also demonstrates your passion and commitment to the profession. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) certifies sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) in two ways:

  • SANE-A for adults and adolescents.
  • SANE-P for pediatric patients.

Candidates must have at least two years of registered nursing experience and meet any other qualifying criteria established by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board before taking the exam. Certification exams are given twice a year, in May and October, and can be taken at testing centers across the United States and worldwide.

RNs are sometimes used as coroners or death investigators in some communities. Check with your forensic nursing UK agencies to see if they are currently hiring nurses as death investigators, and if so, what kind of education and experience you will need.

The nurse may be taken to crime scenes to collect evidence, blood, and tissue samples in addition to collecting evidence in a hospital setting. The nurse will also be important in trauma victims' physical and emotional recovery.

Forensic Nursing UK, a typical work week is 40 hours, generally from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, depending on the trust you work for and your chosen speciality, you may be required to work nights, weekends, or on call. Becoming a forensic nurse in the UK, a nurse is more likely to perform a typical work week, while occasional overtime may be necessary, particularly at an active crime scene.

Violence is a public health issue. A nurse specializing in forensics work to prevent violence, assist victims and collaborate with the criminal justice system to support investigative and legal processes. Criminalist's nurse must be detail-oriented, organized, skilled in collecting and maintaining admissible evidence in court and committed to accurate and careful documentation. Forensic nursing is an emotionally demanding field. Developing good self-care practices is essential for maintaining professional and personal balance. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) recommends reading about vicarious trauma to understand how a forensic nursing career can affect your personal and professional life.

Yes, there are different types of forensic nurses, such as:

  • Investigate cases surrounding elder abuse and exploitation.
  • Forensic Psychiatric Nurses.
  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners.
  • Forensic Nurse Investigators.
  • Nurse Coroners or Death Investigators.
  • Legal Nurse Consultants.
  • Correctional Nursing Specialists

There is a high demand for qualified forensic nursing graduates in law enforcement, whether in police, customs, or investigative nursing agency. Forensic nursing graduates can work as forensic nurses, analytical chemists, laboratory technicians, toxicologists, or criminal justice officers.

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