Forensic Nursing

by Heather Hutchins

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, forensics nurses participate in the scientific investigation and treatment of abuse victims, violence, criminal activity, and traumatic accident. They act as liaisons between the medical and legal communities. Although the word "forensic" summons up images of the latest crime scene television show, the word actually means “pertaining to the law or public discussion.” In practice, forensic nurses work with trauma and disaster patients, collect evidence, run diagnostic tests and often provide expert testimony in court.


Most forensic nursing positions require that applicants be registered nurses. In addition, registered nurses can prepare themselves for the forensic nursing specialty by earning an additional degree in forensic nursing or by earning the Certified Forensic Nurse (CFN) designation offered by the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute.

Forensic nurses can specialize in working with different patient populations including victims of sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse, medicolegal death investigation (used in major disasters such as Hurricane Katrina) and community education. For example, the International Association of Forensic Nurses offers certification as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE).

Related Nursing Specialties

Nursing specialties related to forensic nursing include emergency room nursing, medical legal consulting (also called legal nurse consulting), nurse coroner/death investigator and forensic nurse investigator.

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