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What Is Forensic Mental Health Nursing?

by Naomi Millburn

If you have a passion both for the medical field and for forensic science, employment as a forensic mental health nurse might be in the cards for you as an enriching lifelong career. The world of forensics is centered around the use of science to find answers for criminal activities.

Forensic Mental Health Nurse Career

A career as a forensic mental health nurse is based on evaluating people who have committed illegal acts, notably ones who are believed to be mentally ill. Forensic mental health nurses, on the whole, interact closely with these people, both in analyzing their mental conditions and in determining how to proceed in helping them. They zero in on the thought processes of these people before they commit illegal acts -- and as the actual acts are going on. Not only do forensic mental health nurses often work with the supposed perpetrators of crimes, but they also frequently work with people who have been victimized, as well. The goal of forensic mental health nurses is to understand mental health as a means of advancing legal justice.

Various Situations

Forensic mental health nurses work with people who are involved in an array of possible criminal situations. They might care for women who were routinely beaten by their husbands for years on end. They might care for young children who were abandoned by their families. They might even analyze the actions of individuals who have been accused of inflicting violent sexual acts on others. Not only do forensic mental health nurses work with people who are direct parts of crimes, whether as criminal or victims, but they also frequently work alongside their partners and relatives. If a person has been deeply affected by something that happened to someone close to him, he might need the assistance of a forensic mental health nurse.

Typical Work Locations

Work as a forensic mental health nurse often goes far beyond the hospital and clinic. These professionals' services and expertise are often sought in jails, courts, shelters for battered women, schools and behavioral health residences for individuals with mental disorders. It also is relatively commonplace for fellow medical professionals to receive help from forensic mental health nurses. If a health worker observed a traumatic violent attack on the job, he might need the care, for example.

Job Expectations

When forensic mental health nurses work alongside criminals and victims, they are expected to always behave in manners that are devoid of criticism. They are also expected to continually expand their expertise in the realms of both psychiatric nursing and the legal system. As far as educational backgrounds go, forensic mental health nurses can be standard nurses with diplomas and certification, or they can be advanced practice professionals who have pursued post-graduate schooling.

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