Registered nurses who have been practicing health care for years now have the option to shift their careers if they want to. New graduates of the nursing course can check if they can divert from clinical nursing to a seemingly more challenging career in forensics. Nursing practitioners or even physicians, can obtain forensic nursing certifications if they want to shift their careers or they just want to upgrade their skills.
The primary role of hospital nurses is in care giving. A forensic nurse can be a clinical nurse, who has great observation skills, can recognize and identify evidences, collect them and document them properly for use in convicting perpetrators of crime. This clinical nurse must of course, go through training and certification first before she can begin practicing professionally.
A professional certification is a document that recognizes an individual’s experience and knowledge in a certain field, profession or specialty. There are a lot of acronyms that refer to courses related to forensic nursing. There may be differences in the way they’re called but the curriculum is similar in all types. These training programs are:
- Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner – SAFE
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner – SANE
- Forensic Nurse Examiner – FNE
- Sexual Assault Nurse Clinician – SANC
- Sexual Assault Examiner – SAE
All these training programs include curricula, which give focus on:
- Perpetrator Theory
- Forensic Mental/Psychiatric Health
- Interpersonal Violence (same sex or otherwise)
- Criminal Justice
Those who undergo any of the training programs have classroom hours and hands-on hours that are supervised by trained forensic doctors and nurses. The following are the most recognized methods on how one can acquire forensic nurse education or training:
- Via certification programs provided by universities that offer forensic nursing aside from traditionally structured courses that lead to a nursing degree
- Via continuing education programs that professional nurses undergo for renewal of their licenses.
- Via undergraduate or graduate nursing courses or elective subjects on forensic nursing that are often offered as part of a certification program
- Via Masters of Science with a degree in Nursing, which also offers special subjects on collecting evidence, forensic law and science, etc. These programs also offer internship in forensic crime laboratories, medical examiners’ offices, shelters for crime victims, and the forensic psychiatry units of hospitals.
The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), which was formed in the early 1990s as a result of a convention attended by 70 sexual assault nurses, has developed a certification program for all sexual assault nurse examiners. SANE-A Certification is a professional certification for sexual assault nurse examiners of adults and adolescents. SANE-P is intended for examiners of pediatric and adolescent patients.
The SANE is considered the stepping-stone to forensic nursing. The IAFN requires the trainees to be registered nurses. They are subject to 40 instructional hours and another 40 hours for on-the-job duties. During the training, the nurses’ skills are honed in collecting various evidences like hair strands, fibers, and fluids for DNA testing.
Although forensic nurses are more into sexual assault cases, they are still helpful in other cases like domestic violence and various types of abuse (verbal, physical, emotional, psychological).
Many forensic nurses can be seen in emergency rooms of hospitals so they can be on the lookout for shooting or stabbing cases. They gather the bullets and other possible evidences in the form of debris or fluid that can shed some light in the cause of the crime. Only a nurse that has undergone forensic nursing certifications can properly handle all these tasks.