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Forensic nursing is still a relatively new career choice, but it’s also a fast growing sector that combines the best of the medical field and the legal field.  Forensic nursing involves some investigatory skills and even pulls from goals not unlike a medical examiner.  The goal is to determine the truth behind suspicious deaths, abuse and other medical mysteries.  It’s not uncommon for forensic nurses to work alongside attorneys, law enforcement and physicians as an investigation progresses.

In the mid-1980s, the University of Texas introduced the first master’s program for forensic nursing.  Since then, there have been many new programs made available across the country, says A. Harrison Barnes, attorney and founder of  One reason that this field is draws so many is because the responsibilities might shift from one case to the next.  For instance, a forensic nursing career might have you at a crime scene one day and in court testifying to the mental capacity of a patient accused of committing a crime the next day.  A. Harrison Barnes says it requires a very focused and specific skill set and those who choose this as a career will need to have an in-depth knowledge of the medical and legal fields.  The rewards, says the founder, are many  and the work satisfying.

Other duties a forensic nurse might find himself involved in include:

  • Assessing the psychological nuances of victims and the accused
  • Testifying in the role of an expert witness in court
  • Working with domestic abuse victims
  • Interpreting traumatic injuries
  • Working with those who have substance abuse issues
  • Working with suicidal patients
  • Interpreting various lab results, wounds and even corpses for physicians and/or law enforcement
  • Working with the insurance sector, though not as intricately as other fields

As mentioned, these careers require an advanced education; usually a master’s degree.  The field itself continues to grow and according to available statistics, has grown steadily since the early 1990s.

The salaries are impressive, as well.  Interestingly, depending on where you live has a lot to do with how quickly you can climb the proverbial ladder and the salaries adapt accordingly.  Those positions in the southeast likely won’t pay as well as those in say, New York or other major cities along the east and west coasts.

Few careers allow one to combine fields to the degree forensic nursing does.  For those who are looking for a challenge and aren’t sure if they’re going to find it in the medical or legal fields, this is an excellent choice that eliminates the need for making that choice.  If this seems like a career for you, check with your state’s licensing department for information on which colleges offer it.  Apply for student loans, check into available scholarships, take a second job if you need to.  Bottom line,  each day that passes is another day spent wondering what should have been.

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