Nursing
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How To Become A Nurse Coroner

How To Become A Nurse Coroner

Nurse coroners are forensic nurses that are also known as deputy coroners, nurse investigators, medical examiner nurses, and nurse death investigators.

In the following guide, we'll show you what you need to become a nurse coroner and why you would want to.

What is a Nurse Coroner?

A nurse coroner is a forensic nurse who works closely with the coroner to determine the cause and time of death. They also serve as death investigators and can help to determine whether there was any foul play.

Some of the specific duties of a nurse coroner include:

  • Take photographs of the body
  • Examine the body
  • Inform the next of kin
  • Identify the time and cause of death
  • Take tissue samples
  • Take blood samples
  • Interview witnesses and family members
  • Assist crime scene detectives
  • Help to transport the body to the morgue
  • Assist the pathologist with the autopsy

How Do You Become a Nurse Coroner?

If you have decided that forensic nursing is for you and you're ready to take the first steps toward becoming a nurse coroner, check out the steps below.

Step One: Get Your Nursing Degree

See what nursing schools are available and start thinking about your degree!

There are a couple of options here: an associate degree in nursing (ADN) and a bachelor's degree in nursing (BSN).

The former will take you two years to complete and leave the door open for a bachelor's degree while the latter takes 4 years.

Step Two: Get Your Registered Nurse License

As soon as you graduate from nursing school, you can start thinking about the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). This standardized exam will give you a registered nursing license upon completion. It's essential if you want to become a forensic nurse and shouldn't be too difficult for dedicated students.

The exam has an allotted time of 5 hours and includes a couple of optional breaks. There is a maximum of 145 questions to complete and it will take you through a variety of different topics, including:

  • Safe and Effective Care Management
  • Physiological Integrity
  • Psychosocial Integrity
  • Health Promotion and Maintenance

The exam costs $200.

Step Three: Acquire Some Experience

Most forensic nurse employers prefer their nurses to have relevant experience. It shows that you know how to apply everything you have learned and are ready.

To make life easier when applying for high-paying forensic nursing positions, get as much experience as you can. This experience should be relevant to your chosen field.

Step Four: Consider Applying for an Advanced Degree

At this point, you're a qualified and licensed RN and you're ready to start looking for work as a forensic nurse.

There are some major certifications that you can acquire, but the most important ones relate to sexual assault nurse examiners, as opposed to nurse coroners. Any relevant forensic nursing certifications you can find are worth taking to boost your knowledge and CV, but the best thing you can do is apply for a master's degree or doctoral degree.

These options are available for forensic nursing and will allow you to take things to another level. It means you can work in research and teaching fields, as well as psychiatric nursing.

However, while these degrees will certainly help you to get a job and could increase your options and salary, there are no guarantees. What's more, you'll be able to apply for nurse coroner positions even without these advanced nursing degrees.

How Many Years Does it Take to Become a Nurse Coroner?

It will take between 2 and 4 years to qualify as a forensic nurse, after which you can choose your area of focus.

What Type of Nurse Works in the Morgue?

Morgue assistants and nurse coroners work in the morgue. There are also other types of forensic nurses that work around crime scenes in general, including a sexual assault nurse examiner, which assists victims of sexual assault.

Should I Become a Forensic Nurse?

Forensic nursing isn't for everyone and becoming a nurse coroner requires a very specific set of skills, as well as a strong stomach.

If you are observant, perseverant, and have good critical thinking skills, you could be made for the field of forensic nursing. It's also a good specialization for nurses who enjoy investigating deaths and assisting with criminal proceedings.

What's more, it's a field that has a lot of opportunities for personal and professional growth, as well as one that is becoming more and more essential.

After all, many nurses want to help the living and they spend their days preventing them from being sent to the morgue. Combined with the ongoing nursing shortage, it means that there will likely be a strong need for forensic nurses in the coming years.

Furthermore, as the population grows, so will the number of deaths.

Just take a look at the following table, which lists the total number of deaths from uncommon causes like homicide to common causes like cancer and heart diseases, all of which you can expect to encounter as a nurse coroner:

StateHomicideFlu and PneumoniaHeart DiseaseCancer
Alabama4331,01112,8699,913
Alaska3744627732
Arizona5321,29710,9669,820
Arkansas2198867,5756,361
California2,5407,55264,91654,732
Colorado1826666,3076,395
Connecticut1079567,6507,052
Delaware551622,0311,799
Florida9982,80246,27940,592
Georgia6491,59616,78114,358
Hawaii252412,3192,169
Idaho452892,4502,368
Illinois8662,94928,22624,250
Indiana3681,31714,54212,796
Iowa448967,4376,453
Kansas1067305,9605,428
Kentucky2221,02110,7829,505
Louisiana59299611,0089,249
Maine223522,9413,218
Maryland5761,19411,59410,371
Massachusetts1781,93513,28013,182
Michigan6771,95025,12820,094
Minnesota1398467,9268,823
Mississippi2546458,6376,065
Missouri4171,52714,97412,419
Montana332131,8551,956
Nebraska443703,6403,355
Nevada1904545,0944,238
New Hampshire192732,5302,549
New Jersey4271,63720,65517,171
New Mexico1523533,4353,141
New York9015,52151,98535,556
North Carolina6611,83017,76516,724
North Dakota111721,5121,302
Ohio6302,41629,00324,702
Oklahoma21494810,0437,446
Oregon1026146,7917,326
Pennsylvania7493,06836,20729,616
Rhode Island322533,0052,292
South Carolina3377719,3598.652
South Dakota222411,7761,612
Tennessee4951,58814,94612,995
Texas1,5013,65440,15234,291
Utah633332,8722,520
Vermont12971,2341,202
Virginia4901,46414,19213,877
Washington23192710,98511,048
West Virginia934585,5384,617
Wisconsin2361,26811,84210,943
Wyoming16119952886

*Information taken from the CDC (1) (2) (3) (4).

How Much Do Nurse Coroners Make?

Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn't include specific salary details for nurse coroners, it does include data on registered nurses and suggests an average of $75,330 per year and $36.22 per hour (source).

However, your salary is largely dependent on your state. The average in California, for instance, is $120,560 while the average in South Dakota is just $60,960.