Forensic Nursing and Crime Scene Investigators: How Crimes Are Solved
Forensic nursing is almost nothing like what you see on contrived television shows like CSI and SVU — almost. There is some minimal truth to those shows. Television gets ideas from somewhere. It’s called ‘real life.’ However, like many of the ‘based on a true story’ subtexts that come before a movie, the ‘true story’ is typically one or two minute details that have been thrown into a whirlwind of fictitious nonsense. Forensic nurses aren’t always sexy or super clean cut like they are on television, but they certainly have some gross duties that are not for the squeamish or faint of heart — and those are the details that make it onto the screen. There are plenty of forums and online communities which lam bast these shows for glamorizing a serious and gruesome job such as forensic nursing, but we all have to admit that SVU makes for some interesting and unintentionally hilarious 45-minute cases. After watching countless episodes of police fumbling through investigations until the perp basically falls into their hands, you might be interested in learning about what forensic nursing is really all about. If so, here’s a run down of crime scene investigators, some of the most interesting forensic nurses in the business.
Analyzing the Crime Scene
The forensic nursing job of crime scene investigator holds a lot of responsibilities. The biggest one is analyzing the crime scene and piecing together the evidence to form a story. A lot of details about a crime ca be collected just by examining clues. Where did the victim come from? Why or how did the victim end up at the crime scene? Is there trace evidence like blood or semen? There are a million unanswered questions that the investigator must consider, trying to fill in the blanks for all of them. The more clues that are collected and analyzed correctly, the better the chances of solving the crime as quickly as possible. There are a million tiny places evidence can be found. A speck of blood or semen, a single strand of hair, or even a tiny piece of fabric can help catch a killer. The investigator will have been meticulously trained to scour every crime scene for easily overlooked details and collect those pieces of evidence while preserving them as best as possible. Damaged evidence can obscure prints or DNA and make it impossible to close what would otherwise be a pretty cut and clear case, so a lot of heavy responsibility lies atop the crime scene investigator.
Forensic nursing has a few terms for the crime scene investigator. That person may be called the deputy coroner (especially in smaller towns where it’s more common to see a single individual handling more than one connected/related position), the crime scene investigator, or the death investigator (which sounds coolest of them all). They all do the same thing: Work alongside detectives, collect blood and tissue samples, and use their extensive medical background to preserve and examine the collected clues.
Pay and Responsibility
On average, forensic nursing investigators earn between $55,000 and $65,000. It may not seem a lot of compensation for the person whose duties include being in close proximity with (and even touching) brutally murdered corpses, but the public service these people do may be a reward in itself. What can feel better than helping to catch the killer of a child or young woman? Forensic nursing crime scene investigators are really serving society in a big, important way, and have a value way beyond their yearly salaries.
Most crime scene investigators working in forensic nursing have arrest powers, meaning that the professional investigator has the ability to apprehend a suspect without calling the police first. They kind of are the police. This requires the forensic nursing student to also obtain law enforcement training before going out in the field to ensure safety at all times. Arresting criminals can be very dangerous and unpredictable.
Inaccuracy of TV
On television, actors ‘working’ in forensic nursing also don numerous (silly) hats. Not only do they investigate the crime scene, but they catch the bad guy, interrogate the bad guy, and follow the case from start to finish. Although the forensic nursing professional has arrest powers, they are not exercised on a regular basis. The crime scene investigator collects the clues, analyzes the clues, organizes them and reports on them. There is no suspect interrogation or high-speed chases. There are no violent encounters with the perp.
The death investigator is similar and sometimes the same; he or she arrives on the crime scene and uses an extensive medical knowledge to place the victim’s approximate time of death. A combination of crime scene investigator and death investigator would be the — you guessed it — crime scene and death investigator. There’s also a sexual assault nurse examiner, who takes pictures of sexual injuries and tries to collect evidence from the victim’s body — which may be living or dead. Forensic nursing also requires the professional to testify in court, whether it be a death investigator, crime scene investigator or sexual assault nurse examiner.