What is Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing, one of the newest specialty areas recognized by the American Nurses Association (ANA), is gaining momentum nationally and internationally. Forensic nursing practice is, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses, (IAFN), the "application of nursing science to public or legal proceedings." Forensic nurses investigate real and potential causes of morbidity and mortality in a variety of settings. Responsibilities range from collecting evidence from perpetrators and survivors of violent crime to testifying in court as a fact witness (someone who saw a situation firsthand) or an expert witness (someone who offers an opinion of a particular situation). Forensic nurses understand evidence collection, such as forensic photography, for subsequent legal and civil proceedings and are the "bridge between the criminal justice system and the health care system." Skills of the forensic nurse include but are not limited to: observation, documentation, and preservation of evidence, all critical in determining the legal outcome of violent crimes. The largest subspecialty of forensic nursing is sexual assault, closely followed by death investigation, forensic psychiatric nursing and medical-legal consulting.

What is the Importance of Forensic Nursing?

Borrowing on their training and experience in observation as a part of their caregiving role, the forensic nurse has the unique position of being a qualified medical professional trained to observe, recognize, collect and appropriately document evidence that ultimately becomes foundational to establishing the legal causation and responsibility for traumatic injury.

How do I Decipher the Maze of Forensic Sexual Assault Examiner Acronyms?

Programs designed to instruct medical personnel with the fundamentals of the forensic examination of a victim of sexual assault were first offered in 1976, and typically consisted of forty hours of academic instruction followed by specified hours of hands-on clinical practice. Subsequently, these pilot programs became structured to provide both physicians and licensed nurses with instruction on the comprehensive care of, and forensic evidence collection from, sexual assault victims. This led to the professional recognition of those completing such courses as SAFE, Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner, SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, FNE, Forensic Nurse Examiner, SANC, Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician, and currently SAE, Sexual Assault Examiner. Other than their acronyms, the courses offered by each are essentially similar.

Where Do I Obtain a Forensic Nursing Education?

Borrowing on their training and experience in observation as a part of their caregiving role, the forensic nurse has the unique position of being a qualified medical professional trained to observe, recognize, collect and appropriately document evidence that ultimately becomes foundational to establishing the legal causation and responsibility for traumatic injury.

What is the Importance of Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nursing curriculums focus on victimology, perpetrator theory, forensic mental health, interpersonal violence, criminology, and criminal justice. Apart from practical experience under the auspices of a trained forensic doctor or nurse, there are generally four recognized methods of acquiring forensic nurse training. They are as follows:

As a Licensed Professional, Where Can I Find a Time Convenient Source of Forensic Education?

Our company, American Forensic Nurses, Inc., in conjunction with the University of California-Riverside (UCR), offers online: http://www.ucrextension.net/certificates/forensic-nurse.html, the Certificate in Forensic Nursing, comprised of a group of courses in that specialty. Upon the successful completion of the program, UCR issues a Certificate of Completion to the student participants. In addition, and again in association with American Forensic Nurses, Inc., UCR offers online: http://www.ucrextension.net/sae, a 60-hour academic course, with a required 45-hour internship, in the forensic nursing specialty of Sexual Assault Examiner (SAE), upon the completion of which the student participant is issued a Certificate of Completion by UCR. This Certificate, in addition to satisfying the 45-hours Continuing Education credit requirement of nurses licensed in California (and presumably similar requirements in other States), serves as a prerequisite qualifying the student participant to take the International Association of Forensic Nurses written examination, successful completion of which leads to its issuing to the examinee a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Certification, or SANE-A.

As a Licensed Professional, How Does the Certificate in Forensic Nursing Benefit Me?

UCR's Certificate of Completion of its Forensic Nursing program, covering a wide spectrum of forensic subjects, is designed for the use of a general practice forensic nurse, and as such represents both a meaningful and useful credential in the general practice of forensic nursing. This certificate represents 14 University of California professional level course units, plus completion of an additional 2 elective units, which may be transferable to another academic institution, depending on that institution's policy. The Certificate of Completion issued by UCR after successfully completing the online forensic nursing course program, does not equate to an academic diploma signifying achievement of a recognized level of study, such as a BS, MS, or PhD.

What is the Difference Between UCR's "Sexual Assault Examiner Certificate of Completion" and the International Association of Forensic Nurses "Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Certification (SANE-A)"?

The successful completion of UCR's Sexual Assault Examiner program enables the student participant to perform the specialized examination of victims of sexual assault and abuse. The Certificate of Completion signifies accomplishment in a recognized foundational course of study and as such is an invaluable asset in seeking practice in this forensic discipline. Additionally, this Certificate represents a total of four University of California professional level course units that may be transferable to another academic institution depending on its accrediting policy. By contrast, a Certification denotes that the recipient, through the successful completion of a course of study satisfies those standards established by the professional organization awarding the certification, as in the instance of the International Association of Forensic Nurses' Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Certification, the recipient of which can use the awards acronym in their resume as well as identifying documentation, such as "Jane Doe, RN, SANE-A". Bear in mind, that professional industry acronyms signifying a level of competence as established by a particular organization in that industry, while of value in defining standards of performance for the industry, do not of themselves imply that an otherwise fully trained professional in that industry, and in the absence of a performance level or achievement acronym, is less qualified or capable of performing at a superior level. In other words, thorough and proper training nearly always matches acronyms seeking to identify that level of achievement.

Do I Need to be Certified to Practice as a Sexual Assault Examiner?

No, you do not need to be certified in order to practice as a sexual assault examiner. Professional certification recognizes an individual's experience and demonstrated knowledge in a profession or specialty.

What is SANE-A Certification?

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) has developed a national written certification examination for the sexual assault nurse examiner. To become certified as a SANE-A, you must be a registered nurse (RN) for two years or more and meet all of the eligibility requirements. You must also pass the certification written examination developed by the IAFN Forensic Nursing Certification Board and the Center for Nursing Education and Testing. For further information log onto: http://www.iafn.org/.

What is IAFN?

In 1992, seventy-two (72) SAFEs/SANEs from the U.S. and Canada gathered together in Minneapolis and formed the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). This organization is a non profit international professional organization of registered nurses whose goal is to develop, promote and disseminate information about the science of forensic nursing both nationally and internationally.

Is the California Program Recognized by my State Board of Registered Nursing?

Contact your State's Board of Registered Nursing to determine if they will accept California BRN approved continuing education credits. Most states do accept these, but it is best to confirm this directly. This program is an academic program offered by the University of California. The University of California is an accredited institution and is generally recognized by other state agencies.

What is the Range of Compensation for a Practicing Forensic Nurse?

Given the variety of forums where forensic nursing can and is practiced, and variation of levels of compensation from one geographic location to another, it is nearly impossible to provide any meaningful response to this question. However, it is appropriate to comment that generally nurses are compensated at a higher rate by private major city hospitals than those employed by hospitals in a rural area, or by public hospitals in either location.

What are the Specialty Roles in Forensic Nursing?

Educating and informing potential employers regarding the profession of forensic nursing and the valuable skills provided by qualified forensic nurses. Meeting and establishing professional relationships with other forensic professionals, including crime scene technicians, medical examiners and attorneys is called "networking". Through networking you will establish a professional identity within the forensic community which will ultimately help. Always join as many professional forensic organizations as you can. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) will keep you informed of professional developments in the field of forensic sciences. As their responsibilities evolve, forensic nurses are assuming increasingly diverse roles, in risk management, employee litigation, forensic nurse investigator, forensic clinical nurse specialist, forensic nurse educator, bioterrorism, domestic and international investigations of human rights abuse, psychiatric forensic nursing, forensic geriatric nursing, correctional nursing, emergency room forensic nursing, pediatric forensic nursing, sexual assault and domestic violence. Newly proposed is the child abuse nurse examiner. The most common roles are sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), advanced practice forensic nurse or forensic clinical nurse specialist, nurse death investigator and nurse coroner.

What is a Legal Nurse Consultant?

Many people wouldn't think of legal nurse consulting as a forensic specialty, but then again, it is the combination of nursing and the law, which fits the description of nursing forensics. In any legal case where medical issues are involved, nurse consultants could be considered to be practicing forensics.

What is a Medical Examiner Nurse Investigator?

Nurses in this role may go by different titles, such as death investigator, forensic nurse investigator, or deputy coroner. In some areas nurses may actually practice as coroners, depending on the areas regulations for that position, or assist the medical examiner or forensic pathologist in that jurisdiction. Nurses are highly regarded for their medical background, investigative abilities and documentation skills that they bring to this position. Death Investigators have tremendous responsibilities. If working out of the coroner's office, they typically can work scheduled time in the office as well as taking on call time. Duties include responding to the scene of an accident or suspicious death, collaborating with detectives, pronouncing death, examining the body, taking tissue/blood samples, taking pictures of the body and the scene, keeping meticulous records and arranging for the body to be taken to the morgue or coroner's office for autopsy. During autopsies, nurse investigators work side by side with the forensic pathologist in collecting evidence to send to the lab for examination.

What are Some Additional Settings for Forensic Practice?

What Is Forensictrak?

Forensictrak is an informational and educational resource site. To review this link go to http://www.forensictrak.com where you can explore the world of forensic science such as forensic specialties, publications, forensic news, information, books, tools, DNA and educational programs.

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