How forensic nurses contribute to public health initiatives

When you enter nursing school, you are usually only given a handful of options in terms of career choices to pursue. However, there are many avenues you can follow with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). One of these is forensic nursing.

Forensic nursing, a specialized branch of nursing that combines healthcare and legal expertise, plays a crucial role in contributing to public health initiatives.

While it is often associated with the investigation of violent crimes, forensic nurses are instrumental in various aspects of public health that extend beyond the realm of violence. Their work includes identifying trends, promoting prevention and supporting overall community wellbeing.

In this article, we will explore the multifaceted ways in which forensic nurses contribute to public health initiatives, with a focus on positive and uplifting aspects.

What is forensic nursing?

It might be difficult for you to picture what a forensic nurse performs just from the term alone.

When it comes to handling matters pertaining to injuries and other health issues that arise from an act of violence or other crime being committed, forensic nurses usually collaborate with the local government law enforcement.

In the event of a criminal incident, a forensic nurse will actively assist the patient in receiving care and monitoring their progress. While completing this task, the nurse will collaborate with law enforcement to gather and document evidence that will be utilized in the court case to sentence the offender.

Frequently, the forensic nurse who worked on the case will be one of the key sources of evidence that are called on during the trial. With their medical training, they can offer a unique perspective on injuries and the severity of violent crimes. They also ensure the wellbeing of the patient during their time in the legal system, making sure that their health is still prioritized in the midst of the legal proceedings.

Benefits of being a forensic nurse

Different from other nursing occupations, forensic nursing offers some distinct advantages.

Forensic nurses are integral to the legal system, aiding in the prosecution and sentencing of violent criminals. As a result, your job may provide great satisfaction. You will still be interacting directly with patients, but you will also dedicate a fair amount of time to the legal aspect of the role. In addition to being less physically taxing than a typical bedside nursing position at a hospital or care facility, this type of employment can help you avoid burnout.

The pay is one of the primary advantages of being a forensic nurse. Your earnings as a forensic nurse will likely exceed what you would typically make with only a BSN because this is a more specialized job path that calls for extra training and certifications. Of course, it can be hard to take the necessary step forward in your professional development journey when you are in the midst of full-time work, or have family commitments, and this has been a barrier for many people.

However, recent years have seen the introduction of online learning, which institutions such as Cleveland State University have embraced, adapting their courses so that they are delivered fully online. Once a trainee has completed this course, they can reasonably expect to enjoy more job satisfaction, increased job opportunities and, of course, higher pay. The typical forensic nurse salary in the US is $95,000 per year. This compensation might go as high as $139,000 for highly experienced nurses in certain higher-income locations. Obtaining your qualifications to become a forensic nurse can be a great way to continue in the nursing industry and earn a higher wage if you want to increase your income without leaving the field.

How to become a forensic nurse

Although it may seem like a significant step up from a typical nursing job, being a forensic nurse is actually a rather straightforward career path to follow.

To begin with, you will need a BSN. You should also aim to work in an emergency room, psychiatric hospital or pediatric ward for a few years to get a certain familiarity with the kinds of injuries you would be handling and to pick up tips from more seasoned nurses. When you work as a forensic nurse and have to be able to explain the extent of injuries and the care needed in a courtroom, these years of expertise will come in very handy.

After you have worked as a bedside nurse for a few years, you can look into switching to forensic nursing. In order to accomplish this, you must obtain one of the two credentials suggested by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

You can specialize in either pediatric or adult forensic nursing with these two certificates, which also certify you to conduct sexual assault examinations. You have to complete a training course and accrue a particular amount of clinical hours before you can appear for these examinations and get certified.

You should be able to take your exam to become a certified forensic nurse in two to three years if you merge this with your clinical experience working in the emergency room.

You can work in a range of environments, such as coroner’s offices and prisons, once you have earned all the required credentials. You will also be allowed to testify in court on behalf of your patients, utilizing the medical records as evidence.

How do forensic nurses contribute to public health?

There are many ways that forensic nurses contribute to the public health system. Some of the most significant ways that forensic nurses contribute to the healthcare system are:

  • Bridging the gap between the healthcare and justice systems
  • Collecting and preserving evidence
  • Providing support for victims
  • Identifying trends and patterns
  • Offering education and outreach
  • Advocating for vulnerable populations
  • Addressing the public health crisis
  • Collaborating with multidisciplinary teams
  • Fostering resilience
  • Advocating for policy changes

Bridging the gap between the healthcare and justice systems

Forensic nurses act as the bridge between the healthcare and justice systems, ensuring that individuals receive the care and support they need while also contributing to the resolution of legal matters.

For those who have experienced different types of trauma, this dual function makes the healing process easier. Regardless of the circumstances, navigating the justice system can add to the patient’s already trying and traumatic experience.

In addition to helping patients construct a case, forensic nurses may ensure that they are fully informed and have a voice in the decisions made, making the process as simple as possible for the patient.

Through helping people navigate these processes, forensic nurses foster an atmosphere that encourages collaboration, trust and security.

Collecting and preserving evidence

Gathering and maintaining evidence is a key responsibility of forensic nurses. Evidence is essential for both legal and public health investigations.

For instance, in sexual assault cases, it is necessary to gather evidence not only to establish a case against the perpetrator, but also to positively identify them and add them to databases. By keeping the community informed and secure, this information helps to prevent the criminal from committing the same crimes again.

Forensic nurses support the overarching objective of establishing safer surroundings and averting more damage by carefully maintaining evidence and attending to the victim’s physical and emotional needs.

Providing support for victims

When it comes to giving victims emotional support and treatment, forensic nurses are essential. Their compassionate approach guarantees that victims get the necessary medical care and aids in their recovery from the trauma they have endured.

By lessening the long-term psychological effects of traumatic events and fostering mental and emotional wellbeing within the community, this compassionate care aids in the healing process.

Forensic nurses support the overarching objective of establishing safer surroundings and averting more damage by carefully maintaining evidence and attending to the victim’s physical and emotional needs.

Identifying trends and patterns

One of the ways that forensic nurses most heavily impact public health is by identifying trends and patterns. As a nurse, they are trained on how to identify injuries, and they also get first-hand experience of what situations might look like in terms of domestic violence or other crimes.

With their qualifications as a forensic nurse, they are able to make observations on the patterns that are occurring in criminal cases and present this information to public health officials. By collaborating with public health agencies, forensic nurses are able to create and implement preventive measures that will help to keep community members safe.

For example, if a forensic nurse notices an uptick in cases of substance abuse-related injuries, they can work with public health officials to develop educational campaigns and resources aimed at reducing substance abuse and related injuries within the community.

Offering education and outreach

If you have ever seen the nurses who go around and give talks to young people at schools, churches or other community organizations, the chances are that you have seen a forensic nurse in action.

Among the most significant ways that forensic nurses influence the community’s public health is via education. This frequently takes the shape of discussions on drug use, spousal abuse and sexual wellness. Educating the people in the community on how to prevent crimes and health issues is one of the greatest strategies to lower their prevalence.

Some forensic nurses also provide workshops in correctional facilities to try to give the inmates an opportunity to learn and correct their behavior for when they are released. This alone can help to greatly reduce the rate of incarceration once inmates are released back into society.

Advocating for vulnerable populations

Forensic nurses act as advocates for the most vulnerable members of society, such as children, the elderly and those with impairments.

The most common method they use to accomplish this is by spotting and reporting indicators of abuse and neglect in senior citizens and youngsters. They are more than qualified to recognize abuse and make sure that other adults who are less familiar with the most obvious indicators do not miss it because they have training as nurses and are familiar with the workings of the legal system.

Their role in identifying and reporting abuse or neglect is essential for safeguarding these populations. Through their advocacy, forensic nurses contribute to creating a safer and more compassionate community where all individuals can enjoy better health and wellbeing. They are also able to work to address legislation, improving it to ensure that fewer and fewer individuals each year have to go through abuse.

Addressing public health crises

When dealing with public health emergencies, forensic nurses frequently find themselves on the front lines. During pandemics, catastrophes or other emergencies, their special talents come in very handy. They can assist in guaranteeing that individuals impacted by the crisis receive the necessary support and can offer vital medical treatment.

Furthermore, because they are essentially the ones changing policy in situations such as a pandemic, forensic nurses are particularly crucial. Their first-hand knowledge gained from working on the front lines of public health emergencies allows them to advise policymakers on the most effective ways to address these problems. This makes it possible to better tailor the treatment given and the public’s reaction to an incident to the particular circumstance that is taking place.

This adaptability and readiness to respond to public health emergencies makes forensic nurses an essential component of disaster preparedness and response efforts.

Collaborating with multidisciplinary teams

A variety of experts, such as social workers, medical personnel and law enforcement officials, work together with forensic nurses. In a sense, they bear the responsibility of closing the gap and uniting all team members or giving the patient the finest treatment possible.

This interdisciplinary approach promotes a sense of collaboration and community solidarity in addition to guaranteeing that victims receive thorough care. Together, these experts help to create a setting that is safer and better for all.

Fostering resilience

A vital part of building resilience in communities is done by forensic nurses. It is never easy to navigate the legal system, but it may be particularly challenging if you’ve been impacted by a violent crime. Reentering society and returning to a normal life can be challenging, even when the case is completed.

Forensic nurses enable survivors to take back control of their lives by assisting people in overcoming trauma and offering them the tools and assistance they require through a more holistic approach.Their efforts to enhance resilience benefit communities’ general mental and emotional health and may positively impact public health as a whole.

Advocating for policy changes

Because of their training and personal experience, forensic nurses frequently end up as champions for legislative reforms that have the potential to enhance public health. They can collaborate with lawmakers and other decision makers to create and carry out legislation and rules that deal with the underlying causes of different health problems.

It is common for those tasked with creating new public health laws in a community to be ignorant of the practical implications of their creation. In order to close this gap, forensic nurses and other experts, such as nurse lobbyists, draw on their own experiences and medical expertise to provide more knowledgeable suggestions for proposed laws.

In turn, these modifications support the long-term health of societies and communities at large.


Forensic nurses are unsung heroes in the field of public health. Their contributions extend far beyond their role in investigating violent crimes. They do this by bridging the gap between the healthcare and justice systems, providing emotional support, identifying trends and patterns, and offering education and outreach, making communities safer and healthier places to live. Forensic nurses work tirelessly to protect and heal those who have experienced trauma and to prevent further harm.

In their collaboration with multidisciplinary teams and advocacy for policy changes, forensic nurses play a crucial role in shaping the future of public health. Their dedication to creating a compassionate and resilient community is a testament to their positive impact on society. As we continue to recognize and appreciate their work, we can build a stronger, safer and healthier world for everyone.

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