Forensics as a Nursing Specialty


I am taking Advanced Health Assessment II (taught by Dr. Johnson), NR-534 as part of my studies to become a Women’s Health/Family Nurse Practitioner. During the course of my studies I have done clinical with nurse practitioners who are involved with the SANE nurse program, both as practitioners and educators. Also, during NR-534 I have read the discussions on Dr. Johnson’s sites. So, what are the subspecialties in Forensics Nursing, what are the educational requirements, and how can one find out more information?
Burgess, Berger, & Boersma in the Mar. 2004 edition of AJN define Forensic Nursing as:
… the application of nursing science to public or legal proceedings as nurses investigate real and potential causes of morbidity and mortality in a variety of settings. Responsibilities range from collecting evidence form perpetrators and survivors of violent crimes, testifying in court as a fact witness. Forensic nurses understand evidence collection for subsequent legal and civil proceedings and area ‘bridge between the criminal justice system and the health care system.
A web search found the following areas on practice in Forensic nursing
• SANE nurses- the area of practice I am most familiar with is the SANE nurse. SANEs take care of victims of sexual abuse and collect criminal evidence needed to pursue a conviction. The SANE nurse is a “first responder” interviewing the patient, collecting evidence and being a patient advocate. The community with a SANE nurse program is given consistent care, and often has a seperate area in the emergency room to allow privacy. SANE nurses function as staff educators and community educators. The SANE nurse is present in the courtroom. The program of study combines didactic and clinical and is a certificate program.
• forensic correctional nursing:
“the provision of biopsychosocial nursing care to individuals who have been charged or convicted of a crime” (Kent-Wilkinson, 1995).
• forensic geriatric nursing:
“the application of nursing knowledge to the provision of care and concern to aging individuals with regards to any legal or human rights issues of abuse and/or neglect or exploitation” (Kent-Wilkinson, 1997).
• forensic occupational therapy:
“occupational therapists work in all areas of Forensic Psychiatry. The majority work in medium secure settings, such as Regional Secure Units; some in high-security hospitals, such as the Special Hospitals; and a few in prisons. Key areas of intervention include use of therapeutic activities in risk assessment, development of self-esteem, and preparation for return to the community” (Home Office, 1997).
• forensic investigator nursing (death or medical examiner nurse)
“the application of nursing knowledge in the investigation of any medicolegal death. Medicolegal deaths include any unexpected or violent death. Wherever the cause of death is unclear or even remotely suspicious, the medical examiner must investigate” (Descheneaux, 1991).
• forensic pediatric nursing:
“the application of nursing knowledge to the provision of care and concern to under the age of majority individuals with regard to any abuse and/or neglect and legal or human rights issues” (Kent-Wilkinson, 1997).

Educational requirements differ. The SANE program is a certificate degree. Some of the specialties are graduate nurse degrees, or a dual program blending law school and nursing. On-line courses combined on-line didactic education with clinical preceptors in the nurse’s immediate geographical area. I feel that in rural areas the greatest challenge will be finding clinical preceptors. This may be due to the fact that this is a new area, confusion among other professionals, or the ever popular, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mantra. The website is an excellent forum for advice on how to find a clinical preceptor. Dr. Johnson has also included an index to assist with web-searches.

Burgess, A. & Berger,A., & Boersma, R. (2004). AJN Retrieved Aug. 26, 07.
Kent-Wilkinson, A. (2002). Forensic Files: Forensic Specialties. Retrieved Aug. 26, 07
from Forensic Education.
Johnson, J. Forensic Nursing Chronicles Retrieved Aug. 20, 2007.


Tags: ,

One Response to “Forensics as a Nursing Specialty”

  1. mentosik0 Says:

    Hi, Neat post. There’s a problem with your web site in internet explorer, would check this… IE still is the market leader and a good portion of people will miss your wonderful writing due to this problem.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: