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Forensic Nursing School Options

forensic nurseOne of the newest and most emerging areas in the area of healthcare professions at nursing colleges is forensic nursing. This unique field of study sits squarely at the intersections of nursing practice and forensic science.

Forensic nurses are skilled at providing medical assistance just as any other nurse. Additionally, they are also trained to work with patients that have experienced emotional trauma, and prepared through their education to understand the law and assist the criminal justice system. Nurses who specialize in this field will work with both victims and perpetrators in providing medical care and collecting evidence in support of the judicial system. They are often called on to give expert testimonies, to work with the court system, and to assist legal authorities.


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While it can be rewarding and highly sought after career choice, forensic nursing takes a high degree of dedication and compassion.

Interestingly, forensic nursing, as it pertains to criminal justice, has evolved only in the past two decades. For this reason, it is difficult to evaluate salary expectations and job outlooks specifically for forensic nurses. While there is a great demand for nurses with forensic training, their positions are often assessed within the general area of a certified nurse. Nevertheless, forensic nursing is a collective designation for several interrelated fields of study. SANE training prepares students to work mostly at emergency rooms and clinics as sexual assault nurse examiners. These nurses can further specialize to work within a pediatric focus or an adult and adolescent focus. Correctional nurses work with inmates to complete incoming screenings and chronic care. Forensic nurses trained in death investigation can work as coroners in some of the states. In others, they can provide specialized support combining medical and social expertise in death investigations. Perhaps the most versatile forensic nurses are those with a focus on interpersonal violence. They can work with the elderly investigating abuse, provide preventative education on domestic abuse, or help with assessments in child abuse and neglect cases.

Whichever fields of specialization forensic nurses decide on; first, they must complete a nursing degree to become a registered nurse. For this reason, the best approach to forensic nursing is to find a suitable four-year program at a nursing college. Afterwards, nurses have the option of completing specific training certificates within the forensic field, or opting for continuing their education through a Master’s degree or Ph.D. in forensic nursing. It is important to keep in mind that there are state-specific requirements for nurses who wish to work in the forensic field that may be significantly different from the certification they receive at their nursing college. For instance, the International Association of Forensic Nurses provide online SANE training courses and a Board Certification program, which are different from specific qualifications required by state and federal regulations. Therefore, it is highly advisable to carefully look through and evaluate all nursing degree options before proceeding to the forensic field. The following list contains nursing colleges listed as the top schools in the field according to the recent ranking of the US News and World Report, as well as general nursing schools that are leading authorities in their field.

Top Rated Schools in the United States Offering Degree and Certificate Programs in Forensic Nursing

  • Johns Hopkins University – Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist
    The graduate nursing program at Johns Hopkins is not only one of the three top-rated nursing degrees in the United States, but it also offers an online Masters training in forensic clinical nurse specialization. This is a program designed for students already holding a bachelor’s degree, who are looking to expand their expertise with additional coursework and training. Students access the twelve credit hours curriculum online, and they can use eight of these credits towards their online Master’s degree.
  • University of Pennsylvania – Forensic Science Minor
    UPenn is the second nursing program that tied for the number one position. The Ivy League school offers education on all levels from a bachelor’s to doctoral degrees and beyond. The Forensic Science Minor is a part of a Master’s nursing degree with a four-course unit requirement. Three of these courses focus on classroom learning while the fourth is a directed clinical study.
  • Boston College – Forensic Nursing
    The nursing program at Boston College was among the top 25th nursing degrees. Currently, it offers a specialized Forensic Nursing specialty for interested Master’s students. This is a hands-on one-year post-Master’s program with ten credit hours and 250 hours of clinical practicum.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago – Advanced Practice Forensic Nursing Certificate Program
    UIC’s nursing program was number 11 on the US News and World Report’s list, and the Forensic Nursing Certificate was a four courses long, twelve credit hour program offered exclusively online.
  • University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing – Certificate in Forensic Nursing and Legal Nurse Consulting
    The University of Pittsburg’s School of Nursing was among the top ten programs in the country. It offers one classroom-based and a practicum-based course in various fields of forensic nursing as part of their general nursing curriculum.
  • University of Colorado, Beth-El College of Nursing – Forensic Nursing Certificate Program
    In addition to occupying the respectable 15th place on the list of best nursing schools in the country, the Beth-El College also offers an extensive range of educational options centered on forensic nursing. Their Forensic Nursing Certificate is available both on an undergraduate and on a graduate level containing a total of 12 credit hours of study. Moreover, they offer their own SANE education program as well as training options for Advanced Forensic Nurse Examiners and curriculum on Drug Facilitated Sexual Assault (DFSA).

Other Top Rated Nursing Programs in the United States

University of Washington, University of California San Francisco, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and Duke University all finished among the top ten colleges offering outstanding graduate programs in nursing. Although these schools do not provide specific training in nursing that relates to criminal justice, they provide excellent nursing degrees and prepare students for their further studies in forensic nursing.

Finally, below is a list of schools from the International Association of Forensic Nurses that offer either traditional campus-based degree and certificate programs, or online programs in the field of forensic nursing:

  • Cleveland State University
    Online Master of Science in Nursing – Forensic Track
  • Duquesne University
    Online Master of Science in Nursing
  • Fairleigh Dickinson University
    Master of Science in Nursing with Forensic Specialty
  • Fitchburg State University
    Online Master of Science in Forensic Nursing
  • Monmouth University
    Online MSN – Forensic Nursing
  • Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
    Master of Science in Forensic Medicine
  • University of Central Oklahoma
    Online Master of Science in Forensic Science
  • University of Tennessee
    DNP Dual FNP and Advanced Forensic Nursing
  • Xavier University
    Masters of Science in Forensic Nursing
  • Binghamton University
    Online Graduate Certificate in Forensic Health and Undergraduate Certificate in Forensic Health
  • Bossier Parish Community College
    Online Medicolegal Death Investigation
  • Bryan LGH College of Health Sciences
    Forensic Nursing
  • Cabarrus College of Health Sciences
    Clinical Forensic Nursing
  • Charlotte Mecklenburg Forensic Medicine Program
    Clinical Forensics
  • George Mason University
    Online Forensic Nursing Certificate
  • Kaplan University
    Online Forensic Nursing Certificate Program
  • Roche College
    Forensic Nursing Certificate Program
  • University of California Riverside Extension
    Online Forensic Nursing Certificate Program
  • University of Florida
    Forensic Nursing Science Certificate Program

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