Forensic Nurse Course: A Guide to Required Training and Education

With crime rates rising, the role of forensic nurses is becoming increasingly important in assisting legal investigations. A forensic nurse requires extensive training to properly collect and document evidence from victims. If you’re interested in entering this rapidly growing field, here is a guide to required forensic nurse course.


Forensic nurses examine and treat victims of violence, accident or abuse while preserving evidence. They work closely with law agencies and must have a strong grasp of the legal system. Entering the profession requires earning a forensic nursing degree or certificate after becoming a registered nurse. Programs explore topics like victimology, criminology, and judicial procedure. Forensic nurses can choose to specialize in areas like sexual assault, death investigation, or corrections.

Education Requirements

RN License To work as a forensic nurse, you must first become a registered nurse by earning either an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). ADN programs focus solely on nursing topics while BSN includes additional general education in math, science and humanities. Both prepare you to sit for the NCLEX-RN exam which is required by all U.S. states for licensure.

Forensic Nursing Degree/Certificate

Once licensed, nurses can complete a forensic nursing program, either online or as a campus-based program. These explore the nursing subspecialties like pathophysiology, pharmacology and mental health assessment as they apply to forensics. Programs typically last 9 months up to 2 years if earning a master’s.

Common Courses

Specific topics covered in forensic nursing degrees include:
Victimology – Types of violence and trauma, cycle of abuse Forensic Investigation – Evidence collection/preservation, death examinations Criminology & Judicial Procedure – Courts, law enforcement protocols Corrections Nursing – Prison healthcare systems and policies
Clinical Practicums – Hands-on supervised experience in forensic environments

Optional Specializations

RNs can also earn credentials demonstrating advanced expertise in forensic subfields:

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner
  • Forensic Nurse Death Investigator
  • Board Certified Forensic Nurse

Continuing Education

Needs With scientific advances happening constantly, forensic nurses must stay on top changing technology, procedures, equipment and legal/ethical issues. Ongoing training is typically needed through:

  • Professional conferences & seminars
  • Formal continuing education courses
  • Independent study through research & reading

Maintaining certification often requires earning a set number of continuing education credits each year.

Job Duties & Responsibilities

The daily work of a forensic nurse can vary widely depending on their specialty but typical duties include:

Examining and Interviewing

  • Perform head-to-toe physical exams of victims’ injuries
  • Document wounds through notes, body maps and photography
  • Collect biological and trace DNA evidence
  • Interview patients to gather medical history and case details

Evidence Handling & Analysis

  • Preserve and transport physical evidence from crime scenes
  • Understand basic operations of medical labs and criminalistics analysis
  • Interpret autopsy and toxicology reports
  • Maintain meticulous chain of custody documentation

Providing Expert Testimony

  • Confer with police, prosecutors, defense lawyers and others in legal system
  • Prepare investigative reports for legal proceedings
  • Testify as expert witnesses regarding medical evidence and findings


Forensic nursing is a highly specialized field focused providing medical care while adhering to strict legal protocols. Entering the profession requires first becoming an RN then completing advanced forensic nurse course through a degree program. Forensic nurses have rewarding yet challenging roles assisting in investigations, caring for victims during trauma and serving as crucial liaisons between healthcare and law enforcement. With increased demand for their unique skillset, there’s never been a better time to pursue this fascinating career path.

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