The healthcare system is a large field. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of types of jobs available in the industry, and nursing is one of the most variable career paths in the market. While some nurses decide to focus on general nursing roles to help care for as many patients as possible, others specialize in a specific area. Geriatric nurses focus on working with the elderly, for example, while mental health nurses are focused on helping people living with mental illness. Some nurses cross over into other fields entirely. Forensic nursing, for example, is the intersection of law enforcement, the legal system and the medical field.
From helping patients recover from traumatic experiences to carefully documenting their injuries to be used in legal proceedings, and even sometimes testifying in court about their observations and findings, forensic nurses are incredibly important to society. But how does forensic nursing compare with other nursing roles? This article will explore the difference.
What is a forensic nurse?
Forensic nursing is an increasingly active field combining the justice system, nursing science, and forensic science. Nurses in this field are critical protectors of patients. While the word ‘forensic’ might immediately conjure images of doctors in white coats examining slides under microscopes in a sterile lab, when it comes to nursing, this could not be further from the truth. While forensic nurses are responsible for identifying and evaluating trauma as well as collecting evidence, they do not spend their time far away from patients. On the contrary, they spend much of their time interacting with patients.
Forensic nurses, first and foremost, protect patients. They can navigate the confusing intersection of legal requirements in nursing and have more tools at their disposal to help their patients receive the care they need to recover and thrive. This is one of the reasons forensic nurses are sometimes called on to testify in court. The information they collect might be used to locate and sentence perpetrators, for example, and can even sometimes help locate witnesses and suspects.
In addition to the above, forensic nurses also serve an important role in supporting legal representatives and law enforcement. As we mentioned above, understanding legal requirements in healthcare can be difficult. Forensic nurses have a rather unique understanding of where healthcare and the law meet. As a result, they can help law enforcement and legal teams understand the reasons and importance behind seemingly arbitrary rules and regulations. This, in turn, helps ensure that evidence is collected and preserved properly and legally so that it can be used to help protect victims.
How do forensic nurses differ from other nursing roles?
There are a few similarities between forensic nursing and other nursing roles. Medical professionals, in general, care for the wellbeing of their patients and work to keep them as healthy and happy as possible. The forensic nurse is not different in this regard. They care for their patients and are typically expected to treat them effectively and comprehensively, just as other nurses are expected to look after their patients. Forensic nurses must adopt numerous roles throughout the course of their careers, too, just like nurses in other specialties and roles.
Beyond the above, forensic nursing differs from other nursing roles quite a bit. Rather than sticking to a hospital or doctor’s office, forensic nurses must adapt to a few different environments. Outside of the places one might expect nurses to work, such as health clinics or the emergency room, forensic nurses must also be comfortable working closely with law enforcement and legal teams. This means that they should also be able to work in places like a courtroom, where they might be called on to justify their knowledge and expertise.
Forensic nursing is also different from other nursing roles in the responsibilities nurses are expected to uphold. They combine skills from nursing science and traditional forensic science as they clinically assess trauma, recover medical evidence, document and preserve evidence. Forensic nurses must also be prepared to help their patients through the medical system as they seek help for their injuries and justice for any crimes to which they have been victim.
Forensic nursing education
Another difference between forensic nurses and other nursing roles is the education required. Nurses typically study similar areas and acquire similar knowledge at the start of their education, but as their tastes narrow, so does their field of study. General nurses without a specialty often do not need to complete advanced training beyond earning their undergraduate degree and securing licensing. Nurses looking for more specialized work, on the other hand, often go on to study other topics entirely.
Forensic nurses have the same basic education other nursing roles require but with additional courses in forensics and forensic nursing. Aspiring forensic nurses should expect to enroll in advanced education beyond their undergraduate degrees. The best option is to weigh some of the best forensic nursing online programs across the country to find the one that will work for their goals. It would be wise not to overlook programs simply because they are located in another state, either. Cleveland State University’s forensic nursing master’s degree program is an incredibly well-respected option that will provide students with the skills they need to thrive.
While forensic nursing and other nursing roles are both based on similar nursing knowledge and care, forensic nursing work combines the justice system, nursing science and forensic science to offer specialized care for their patients. With many specialisms within the world of nursing, forensic nursing is just one of many that ensures patients are treated and cared for to the highest standard.