Forensic Nurses

My service to IAFN has always been an honor for me and an opportunity to give back to my colleagues who have been there for me during my nursing career.  The committees on which I have served have been a springboard to connecting with other forensic nurses, growing as a nurse and seeing forensic nurses through the eyes of others.  This has expanded my ability to care for patients, to develop educational opportunities for forensic nurses, and to advance my scholarship. 

Anita Hufft, PhD, RN, Valdosta, GA

Become a Forensic Nurse


The path to becoming a Forensic Nurse will vary. Although Forensic Nursing is the fastest growing nursing subspecialty, nurses often need to spend signficant time and effort to educate employers about the value of having a forensic nurse on staff.

In the US, most registered nurses find success in starting as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE. To become a SANE, registered nurses must take a Sexual Assault Examiner Class comprised of 40 hours of classroom training, followed by an average of 40 hours of clinical training. IAFN has Educational Guidelines that recommend this training as a minimum starting point for SANEs.

Some communities also use registered nurses as Coroners or Death Investigators.  Before taking a Death Investigator Course, a registered nurse should investigate whether their local community hires nurses as death investigators.  If not, that nurse might need to be a trailblazer and advocate for her or himself to be hired in such a position.

Another option is to get a Masters degree or PhD in forensic nursing.  However, an advanced degree does not guarantee a job.   Despite the high quality of Forensic Nursing degree programs, in many cases, nurses will still have to advocate to their facility or employer to create a position.


Training and Education in Forensic Nursing

The most comprehensive listing of trainings can be found in IAFN's Events & Webinars page. IAFN hosts live (in-person) trainings and webinars, and also offers a list of  trainings offered in local communities around the world. IAFN does not promote or endorse any of these outside, non-IAFN sponsored trainings.

IAFN also provides a list of Forensic Nursing Degree Programs and Forensic Nursing Certificate programs. However, IAFN does not endorse or recommend one course over another. Potential students should investigate their options and then directly contact the schools in which they are interested.  Potential students will want to consider whether a certificate course or an advanced degree will better meet their career or educational objectives. Students will also want to look into any requirements that their state's Board of Nursing or similar organization might place on a forensic nurse.

Networking with others who are currently working in the field may help to provide an idea of the education requirements in each community. Consider joining IAFN to take advantage of numerous members-only benefits, including networking opportunities, discussion forums, career resources, and access to the Journal of Forensic Nursing.


Certification in Forensic Nursing

The Board-Certification offered by IAFN is different than state credentialing or earning a ‘certificate’ at the end of an educational course. Although Board Certification is not a requirement to practice in most areas, getting certified signifies that a nurse is committed to professionalism and has the expert knowledge necessary to meet the highest standards of forensic nursing. Studies from the Institute of Medicine have demonstrated that specialty-certified nurses have higher rates of patient satisfaction, lower rates of work-related errors in patient care, and in some cases receive a higher salary or stipend for maintaining certification.

IAFN offers two certifications for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). The SANE-A is specialized for Adults and Adolescents, and the SANE-P is specialized for pediatrics. To become certified, registered nurses must pass an examination.  The exams are offered twice a year during the months of May and October, and may be taken at testing center sites across the US and internationally. In order to sit for the exam, candidates must first meet the eligibility criteria determined by the Forensic Nursing Certification Board For more information visit the IAFN Certification page.

As mentioned earlier, those looking to practice Forensic Nursing will want to make sure that the training they receive meets all of the requirements in their community. Requirements vary significantly, and a person should contact the organization in their state, province, or country that regulates the practice or licensure of nurses. In the US, this would be your State Board of Nursing.



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