Specialising as a Forensic Nurse

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One of the newer areas to be recognised as a nursing specialty, forensic nursing bridges the gap between the judicial and healthcare systems. To practice as a forensic nurse you must have expert knowledge in law and medicine. You will need this to aid in investigating potential causes of injury or death in various settings. Part of your job will involve gathering evidence from perpetrators and survivors of violent crimes and using this evidence to testify in court as an expert witness.

Some of the skills that are essential in forensic nurses include:

  • Expertise in handling triage, implementing emergency treatment plans and preventive interventions for assault and rape victims
  • Attention to detail
  • Critical thinking and organisational skills
  • Patient advocacy skills
  • Compassion and patience particularly when dealing with victims of crime
  • Knowledge of forensic science and legal and criminal proceedings
  • The ability to work together with criminal justice professionals, social service agencies and other healthcare workers to resolve a crime and also to develop effective crime prevention measures

If the idea of forensic nursing is something that interests you, here are some of specialty areas you could choose to focus on:

Forensic Psychiatric Specialist

Forensic psychiatric specialists work in prisons, juvenile detention centres and psychiatric hospitals where they address mental health issues and psychological disorders such as the risk of violence or suicide.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

To work in this specialty you would have to first undergo highly specialised training in the intricacies of assessing a sexual assault victim’s injuries and gathering forensic evidence related to sexual crimes. These would usually be done in an emergency room setting. As a sexual assault nurse examiner, part of your job would involve testifying in court, advocating for the victim and making referrals for any ongoing services the victim may need.

Forensic Paediatric Specialist

Forensic paediatric specialists assist in cases where child neglect, abuse or sexual molestation is being investigated. Because children often find it difficult to articulate exactly what they’ve experienced, they can be especially vulnerable. Working in this specialty requires specialised skills for interviewing and examining these young victims without adding to the trauma.

Forensic Gerontological Specialist

This specialty focuses on helping in cases involving the abuse or neglect of the elderly. As a forensic gerontological specialist you may work in a care facility or with a social service agency that is dedicated to legal and human rights issues as it pertains to eldercare.

Nurse Legal Consultant

A nurse legal consultant provides assistance and support law firms, private investigators, government agencies, corporate legal departments and insurance companies in medico-legal cases such as personal injury cases, medical malpractice, product liability or worker’s compensation amongst others.

Forensic nursing is a specialised nursing field that will require advanced education. This means you will have to earn a BSN or MSN degree and have the relevant experience that is relevant to the sub-specialty of your choice.

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