Forensic Nursing: Part 2. Inside Forensic Nursing

Laura A. Stokowski, RN, MS


Medscape Nurses 

In This Article

Forensic Nursing Roles

The term "forensic nurse" might not bring to mind bioterrorism, drug and alcohol abuse, disasters, suicide, tissue and organ donation, medical error, or arson. Yet these are among the health and medical issues that have legal implications and, therefore, fall into the domain of the forensic nurse. As their skills are increasingly recognized, forensic nurses are rapidly branching out into new legal arenas, such as risk management, employee litigation, and human rights abuse.[5]

The following profiles of practicing forensic nurses are offered to illustrate the tremendous potential of forensic nursing in an array of settings and specialties. Resources and links to more information about these and other forensic nursing roles, forensic nursing education, and forensic certification opportunities can be found at the end of this article.


Forensic Nurse Examiner

Forensic nurse examiners (FNEs) are registered nurses who provide comprehensive medicolegal care to forensic patients. The clinical FNE role is a specialty unlike any seen before in nursing.[6] From infants to the elderly, victims of all ages who have suffered physical or psychological abuse, neglect, sexual assault, liability-related trauma, or other crime-associated injuries may receive care from FNEs. The FNE may also be requested to examine potential offenders and criminal suspects.

The special skills of the FNE include the ability to conduct and document a thorough, unbiased, and objective clinical forensic history and assessment (including digital imaging and laboratory specimens, as indicated), collect and preserve evidence, and maintain the evidentiary chain of custody. Patients of the FNE also receive crisis intervention, medical treatment, education, and appropriate referrals for ongoing care.[7]


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