Beth-El College of Nursing & Health Sciences

Forensic Nursing Education | Extended Studies Home

The Forensic Nursing Certificate focuses on meeting the needs of victims of violent crime. The program applies clinical and scientific knowledge to the delivery of care for survivors of traumatic injury, victims of violence or death investigations.

What is forensic nursing?

At any point where the delivery of patient care and the medico-legal system intersect, forensic nurses have an integral area of practice. Historically, a gap has existed between the office of the medical examiner, the police department and the hospital emergency room or hospitalized patient. Forensic nursing can bridge that gap. Forensic professionals help avoid the mishandling or omission of forensic evidence, perform critical functions in the recognition and correct collection of forensic evidence in all cases of violence, especially complex criminal cases.

Is there a need for forensic healthcare professionals?

According to the World Health Organization, each year nearly 2 million lives are lost around the world because of violence.  Often, healthcare providers are the first to come into contact with a person who is a victim of violence, trauma, or injury. 

Comprehensive forensic healthcare education offers professionals the tools and knowledge to make a difference in their practice, promote collaborative community responses to violence, and design strategies for violence prevention.  

What can you tell me about the Forensic Nursing Certificate at UCCS?

The University of Colorado Colorado Springs, and the Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences are pioneers and leaders in forensic nursing education.  The College was among the first to recognize the need for formal education programs in Forensic Nursing and Health Sciences.  Often referred to as the “godmother” of forensic nursing education, Virginia Lynch MSN, RN developed the program from her abundant passion and knowledge for the field as well as to meet the ever growing need for forensic nurses.  Virginia, the founding president of the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), continues her work in the area of forensic nursing today by speaking around the globe on topics related to the study and education of forensic healthcare.

Program offerings include:

  • Undergraduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing
    Four hundred (400) level nursing courses provide junior/senior level nursing, and registered nurses the opportunity to take upper division courses for college credit. These courses may be used as elective course credit toward a baccalaureate degree or taken collectively to complete the certificate.

    *NURS 4020 Practice Paradigms in Forensic Nursing
    NURS 4030 Healthcare Policy, Ethics and Legal Aspects of  Forensic Nursing
    NURS 4040 Substance Abuse: Implications for Nursing Practice
    NURS 4060 Child Maltreatment
    NURS 4070 The Epidemic of Sexual Assault, Abuse & Exploitation

    *Required - plus choose 9 credits to complete the certificate.
    The Undergraduate Forensic Nursing Certificate is awarded upon completion of 12 credit hours.
    Degree seeking students whould consult with their student advisor prior to taking  courses to ensure that the courses apply appropritely to their degree completion.

  • Graduate Certificate in Forensic Nursing
    Six hundred (600) level courses are designated for students who already hold a baccalaureate degree. Students taking this level of program are encouraged to apply knowledge from research and management courses to acquire a specialty focus, or taken collectively to complete the certificate.

    *NURS 6020 Practice Paradigms in Forensic Nursing
    NURS 6030 Healthcare Policy, Ethics and Legal Aspects of  Forensic Nursing
    NURS 6040 Substance Abuse: Implications for Nursing Practice
    NURS 6060 Child Maltreatment
    NURS 6070 The Epidemic of Sexual Assault, Abuse & Exploitation

    *Required - plus choose 9 credits to complete the certificate.
      The Graduate Forensic Nursing Certificate is awarded upon completion of 12 credit hours.

Degree seeking students should consult with their student advisor prior to taking a course to ensure that the courses apply appropriately to their degree completion.

What can a certificate in forensic nursing do for me?

Forensic Nursing Roles

  • Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE): typically works as a multidisciplinary team member, conducts medical-forensic examinations on victims and suspects of sexual assault, provides supportive care to victims and preserves the chain of evidence obtained from the victim.
  • Forensic Nurse Examiner: Works as part of multidisciplinary team to conduct medical-forensic examinations on victims of all types of violence, provides holistic care and preserves the chain of evidence obtained from victims of intimate partner violence, strangulation, human trafficking, child maltreatment, and elder abuse.
  • Nurse Coroner: Determines cause of death and assists the police to collect evidence at the scene of the crime. A Coroner is usually an elected position and in small communities may be someone other than a physician.
  • Nurse Investigator: Investigates deaths and may, according to protocols, determine if an autopsy is indicated. A Nurse Investigator is usually employed by either a coroner or medical examiner.
  • Forensic Psychiatric Nurse: Assesses, evaluates and provides therapy for criminal defendants, and assists staff members who have witnessed assaults or experienced patient suicide. This role may require additional education and certification in psychiatric therapy.
  • Forensic Correctional/Institutional Nurse: specializes in the care and treatment of large institutionalized populations in prisons or psychiatric facilities, observes, documents and reports problems common to large institutionalized groups confined in close quarters
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist: Serves as consultant and clinical expert to nursing staff working with victims of violence and in areas where the hospital and legal systems interface, and provides support and referral to victims of violence. This role complements the role of Clinical Forensic Medicine.
  • Expert Witness: Testifies in criminal and/or civil court cases.  This role is also referred to as a Legal Nurse Consultant
  • Trauma Nurse: Functions in acute care hospital settings or emergency departments providing direct care or consultative capacity for victims of violence and their families

Follow the clues…and discover what a certificate in Forensic Nursing can do for you!

For REGISTRATION, other questions, or for a list of individual course objectives, contact a Beth-El Extended Studies Staff member at or Contact Us.


Val Sievers
Valerie Sievers MSN, RN, CNS, CEN, SANE-A, SANE-P
Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist 

For more than 15 years,Ms. Sievers worked as the statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Project Director and in 2004 moved the position, funding, and education to Beth-El College of Nursing and Health Sciences at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. As a Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist, Val provides advanced education to healthcare professionals regarding an evidence based approach and appropriate collection of  forensic evidence from adult, adolescents, and children affected by abuse and violence. Val has more than 30 years of experience as a registered nurse with extensive practice in the arena of emergency and trauma services as well as critical care nursing. She is currently certified in emergency nursing as well as both adult and pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner. Val's professional affiliations include:

In 1995, Val and emergency nurse colleagues developed the first SANE program in Colorado at Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs. Since 1995, SANE programs have been developed in more than 15 Colorado communities. Val continues to provide forensic healthcare to adolescents and children at Safe Passage, the Children's Advocacy Center of the Pike's Peak Region.

Visit Forensic Nursing in Colorado to learn more about Forensic Nursing in Colorado including existing SANE programs, quarterly newsletters, and the SANE Community Development Manual.

Virginia Lynch


Virginia A. Lynch, MSN, RN, FAAFS, FAAN, a Forensic Clinical Nurse Specialist and editor of the first medico-legal textbook for nurses was titled Forensic Nursing and published by Elsevier in 2006. This book was acclaimed as the "Most Significant Scholarly/Professional Contribution to Nursing and Allied Health for the year 2006" by the American Association of Publishers, Inc. The second edition, titled Forensic Nursing Science was published in August, 2010.

Ms. Lynch was invited to introduce this field in the new Egyptian Journal of Forensic Sciences, the Official Journal of the Egyptian Forensic Medicine Authority. This article, Forensic nursing science: New strategies in health and justice, published in 2011, brought attention to this concept across the Middle East.

She developed the role of the forensic specialist in nursing science and was the founding President of the International Association of Forensic Nurses. She is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences, a Diplomate of the American Board of Forensic Examiners, an internationally known speaker and consultant in the discipline of Forensic Nursing.

Virginia was the first Fulbright Scholar to be awarded a fellowship in forensic nursing science in 2005/2006. This grant introduced the global concept of forensic nursing practice to health and justice systems across the Indian subcontinent. In 2008, Virginia joined the faculty at the Gian Sigar Medical and Nursing Colleges in Punjab, India to consult and develop courses in forensic nursing education and was named Patron-in-Chief of the Indo Pacific Academy of Forensic Nursing Science in 2009.

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University of Colorado Colorado Springs
Last Updated: February 7, 2013