A forensic nurse assists law enforcement in the collection and analysis of evidence and also treats victims of assault and abuse. Associate degree forensic nursing programs are not available, but those seeking online training can find online certificate and master's degree programs that introduce current registered nurses (RNs) to the forensic side of healthcare. Certificates can be found at the undergraduate and graduate levels. While some of these programs are available in fully online formats, other programs do have some on-campus or clinical requirements that may require a student to visit campus once or twice during the course of the program. This usually depends on the degree level.
Nurses pursuing this type of distance learning degree program are most likely registered nurses who are looking for additional ways to increase their income and work experience. Once the forensic nursing program is complete, nurses can help law enforcement by offering healthcare expertise in criminal cases that involve medical findings. Since forensic nursing is a specialized career, some employers may prefer candidates who have earned board certification from the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).
Undergraduate certificate programs are available online for current RNs or Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) who are looking to explore a new career path. The program can be completed in 1-1.5 years and often requires the completion of 12-16 credits. Coursework may include classes in forensic science, forensic documentation, crime scene preservation and injury recognition.
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Distance learning forensic nursing master's degree and graduate certificate programs include many of the same core forensic courses, though the master's degree programs also include courses in advanced practice nursing and nursing research. Online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs can take anywhere from 1-6 years to complete, depending on the students enrollment status. Applicants are generally required to have a current RN license and have already completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree program. Core forensic courses include subjects such as:
- Introductory forensic nursing
- Caring for victims
- Caring for perpetrators
- The legal system
- Trial preparation
Applicants to online graduate-level certificate programs in forensic nursing are often required to have already completed - or be currently enrolled in - MSN programs as well as be licensed RNs. These programs often require about 18-21 credits and can be completed in 1-2 years. Fully online programs are available.
Unlike a degree program in a traditional campus environment, students in a distance learning forensic nursing program attend classes and interact with classmates and instructors online. Some schools offer programs that use self-paced courses and online discussion forums, which provide a collaborative learning environment where nurses can learn from the experiences of other nurses.
Registered nurses looking for a change in their career path can pursue forensic nursing through online programs. Offered as certificates or master's degrees, these programs provide nurses with knowledge centered on interacting with law enforcement and caring for victims of crime.