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Forensic science makes great use of a number of medical disciplines. At all levels of the field, there are career tracks available to students with a medical background. These positions require advanced degrees in a medical field. Students with low-skilled medical backgrounds will find they may have prerequisites to get them started on training. The medical professionals in the field of forensics work hand-in-hand with the other forensic personnel in the courts, police proceedings, at crime scenes or in laboratory settings.
Training for Odontologists and Physicians
Dentists, physicians, nurses and psychiatrists are the medical professionals who work in the forensics field. Forensic odotonologists, the dentists of the forensics world, must obtain a doctor of dental science and then take further courses offered by the American Society of Forensic Odontology. Medical examiners and pathologists are physicians who work in the fields of forensics. They must be qualified as physicians. Medical examiners may work with pathologists but not necessarily be pathologists. Pathologists must complete a post-graduate training in forensic pathology and medical forensics, including a residency.
Training for Psychiatrists and Nurses
Forensic psychiatrists complete medical training and their residencies in psychiatry. Then they complete a forensics fellowship. This is a yearlong program with a university in conjunction with a hospital. They are accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. A forensic nurse is a registered nurse who completes a master's degree in forensic nursing and becomes board certified through the International Association of Forensic Nurses or the American College of Forensic Examiners.
These professionals use their knowledge of dentistry to determine the identities of victims, give information about bites or damage done to teeth during violence or accident. They can provide information that helps to identify victims of disasters or crimes. They can analyze injury to teeth to determine what caused the damage or when.
Pathologists and Medical Examiners
Pathologists evaluate the tissues and body fluids to determine cause of death and the time of death in cases of uncertain circumstances. They can be called in to examine murder victims or victims of unexplained accidents or deaths, such as from poisoning or drug-related death. Medical examiners are physicians who examine corpses for signs of how and when they died. They may perform autopsies and provide death certificates. They are often the first medical professional to view a body of someone who died from accident or in suspicious circumstances. They make legal determinations of death and its causes.
A forensic nurse works often with victims of violent crime, especially in the areas of sexual assault, domestic violence and child or elder abuse. They are trained to work with victims and perpetrators of these crimes with special awareness of how to handle the social trauma that surrounds the situations. They may conduct examinations of rape victims or document evidence of family abuse. They have training that equips them to handle both the physical and emotional emergencies associated with these crimes. They also know how to conduct evaluations and preserve evidence that may be needed by the police.
Forensic psychiatrists help the police and attorneys understand what motivates suspects. They can shed light on behaviors that may lead police to apprehend suspects, help attorneys defend or prosecute them or help courts determine if a suspect is competent to stand trial. The job of forensic psychologist is often portrayed on television police programs. They analyze information gathered at crime scenes or discovered in the course of investigations that may indicate the psychological state of a suspect. The forensic psychologist may help police to decide what approaches to take in pursuing a suspect.
Roz Calvert was a contributing writer for the award-winning ezine Urban Desires where her travel writing and fiction appeared. Writing professionally since 1980, she has penned promotional collateral for Music Magnet Media and various musicians. The "Now Jazz Consortium" published her jazz educational fiction. She published a juvenile book about Zora Neale Hurston and attended West Virginia University and the New School.