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Forensic Nursing Qualifications

by Trudy Brunot

Forensic nursing brings nursing and forensic sciences together to serve the criminal justice system. A relatively new branch of nursing, forensic nursing includes several subspecialties: forensic nurse examiner, sexual assault examiner, forensic psychiatric nurse, legal nurse consultant and death investigator. Those interested in a forensic nursing career must first attend school and become licensed as a registered nurse. They then take courses, attend seminars and undergo training in the forensic aspects of their specialty.

Forensic Training

Registered nurses take courses, attend seminars and undergo training in the forensic aspects of their specialty through accredited colleges and professional associations such as the International Association of Forensic Nurses, American College of Forensic Examiners Institute and the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Depending on their area of expertise, they must learn evidence protocol, court testimony, victim interviewing techniques and the use of specialized instruments for evidence collection. Training includes documentation requirements, investigation methods and assault assessment.


According to the American Forensic Nurses, a forensic nurse should be a keen observer who applies attention to detail through all stages of her involvement in a case. She can deal with patients and victims objectively, yet provide compassion and establish a rapport through her interviewing skill. With her knowledge of evidence collection, she can avoid jeopardizing a criminal investigation. She works under stress as she faces trauma and death.


Certification in forensic nursing varies by specialty. The legal nurse consultant certified -- LNCC -- designation can be earned through the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants. Death investigators can seek their professional stamp of approval from the American Board of Medicolegal Death Investigators. The American College of Forensic Examiners Institute offers a CFN -- certified forensic nurse -- certificate, while the International Association of Forensic Nurses certifies forensic nurse examiners in pediatric and adult sexual assault: SANE-P and SANE-A. IAFN and the American Nurses Credentialing Center introduced advanced forensics portfolio certification in 2012. The American Nurses Credentialing Center also certifies psychiatric-mental health nurses, which can be combined with forensic studies for professional credibility.

State Licensing

According to ForensicNurse.com, no nationwide licensing standard exists for this profession or its subspecialties, with the exception of the SANE credential. However, the site recommends that prospective forensic nurses obtain at least 40 credit hours of study in what it calls core forensic areas: criminalistics; how nursing works with law enforcement; identifying, interpreting and documenting injuries; victimology and forensic nursing history.

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