What is a Forensic Nurse?

In cases where either a person has sustained traumatic damage from a violent act or accident, a forensic nurse serves an essential role. Severe trauma from either intentional or unintentional injuries often require a specialized kind of attention to address their unique nature, and to meet this need, forensic nurses receive highly focused training, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

The Law and Healthcare Entwined

Forensic nurses facilitate an invaluable connection between the law and scientific examination. Where ambiguous eye witness accounts may offer very little in the way of resources to determine objective truths, forensic investigation can reveal the underlying story that witnesses either can’t or won’t articulate on their own.

In the absence of forensic evidence to scientifically verify the veracity of subjective matters such as a victim’s pain and suffering, there is little more than hearsay. By introducing objective scientific assertion to legal systems, forensic nurses make courts more capable of reaching impartial verdicts.


Forensic nurses may be distinct trained in forms of care that are specifically attuned to the management of certain kinds of trauma. The different kinds of trauma that different forensic nurses might be specially credentialed for include matters such as domestic violence, aggravated assault, and sexual violence.

The many different fields of forensic investigation oftentimes necessitate teams of specialized officers and forensic examiners to address their uniquely sensitive nature. Forensic nurses oftentimes occupy vital roles on investigative teams with a focus on specific matters such as sexual assault, domestic abuse, and death.

Areas of Practice

Forensic nurses can be found working in a diverse range of different facilities that need them. In addition to public hospitals, forensic nurses are also employed by psychiatric institutions, corrections facilities, and other places made for the care and observation of those who are likely to have been victims of trauma. Forensic nurses may play an important role on medical relief teams dispatched to assist injured civilians in areas that have been ravaged by natural and man-made disasters.

While not caused by another individual, the physical and mental trauma caused by severe weather storms, earthquakes, war skirmishes and community riots can necessitate the same level of specialization required to treat domestic abuse victims.

Forensic Evidence Examination and Testimony of Findings

While the forensic nurse is a healthcare professional, their duties also extend to the collection of crucial evidence. By collecting evidence, forensic nurses are better able to understand both the context and key forensic elements of patients’ traumatic experiences; this can be useful both in terms of medical attention for the victim and the prosecution of the perpetrator.

At the time of the perpetrator’s case, a forensic nurse may be called on to give testimony. As a forensic nurse’s work is based in the scientific method and objective observations, their expertise can be a valuable source of unbiased clarity for the case at hand.

A forensic nurses’ thorough testimony regarding the precise extent of bodily damage to the victim and specific areas of trauma that directly resulted from the perpetrator’s physical actions can be instrumental in the court’s ability to reach an appropriate verdict.

Training, Licensing, and Employment

An increasing amount of registered nurses have elected to take special training courses to prepare for specialized forensic work. The training programs for death investigation and sexual assault examination oftentimes involve dozens of classroom training hours as a minimum requisite. While it is possible to acquire a Ph.D or master’s specifically in forensic nursing, a targeted degree is neither necessary nor a guarantee of employment.

Related Resource: What is a Pain Management Nurse?

While there are many different specialized fields with a real need for specialized forensic professionals, facilities must usually first be compelled to create a forensic nurse position with a registered nurse’s direct proposal.