A forensic nurse is a registered nurse that specializes in collecting forensic evidence related to criminal activity while caring for patients who are crime victims. Forensic nurses serve as a liaison between medical and criminal justice professionals.
Forensic nurses work primarily in emergency rooms, where they care for patients like any other RN but also assess potential criminal activity when examining injured and traumatized patients. For example, if a forensic nurse is examining a child with a broken arm, they approach the examination like a criminal investigator, looking for signs of child abuse while providing care.
Salaries for forensic nurses range anywhere from $55 to $300 per hour in government agencies and public hospitals, and nurses looking to work as a independent consultant can expect to make in the several hundred dollar per hour range.
As part of their training to assist the criminal justice system, evidence collection and legal testimony are emphasized because nurses are typically the first point-of-contact for crime victims that are admitted to the ER. Forensic nurses are typically the first people who have the opportunity to gather evidence and assess the psychological states of victims – two critical aspects of the criminal justice system.
Joel Burns, MSN, RN, a Connecticut-based forensic nurse says that forensic nursing jobs are difficult to find right now, unless you look in certain areas of the country. Forensic nursing markets are best in Texas, Virginia, Missouri and Kansas.
The flexibility and adaptability of forensic nursing skills are advantageous, according to Burns. “You can apply it to whatever nursing field you are in. There is always some sort of investigation.”