Nurses in a laboratory analyzing samples

Nursing (MSN) - Forensics Track

MSN forensic nursing programs at Xavier provide students with advanced study of healthcare and forensic nursing practice.

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Learn essential forensic nursing skills with a specialized MSN.

MSN forensic nursing programs at Xavier provide students with advanced study of healthcare and forensic nursing practice. Forensic nursing science is the application of science and nursing to both civil and criminal investigations and legal matters according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN).

This education program combines nursing and law while providing healthcare as well as collecting evidence for legal matters. Obtaining your MSN Forensic Nursing degree prepares you for legal matters which deal with patients ranging from issues such as sexual assault to patients needing intense clinical care. Victims of violent trauma such as intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault and neglect require healthcare professionals who are taught to treat them as well as collect evidence that can be used by law enforcement and in court to prosecute perpetrators. Workers in the forensic nursing specialization fight for anti-violence and are an important resource that promotes the rights of the victim.

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You’ll get the personal attention and flexibility needed to reach your goals at your pace. Our invested professors and small class sizes will set you up for success.

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Online Nursing (MSN) - Forensics Track Course Requirements

37 credits

The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Forensic track program at Xavier University consists of 37 credit hours, which consists of 20 credit hours of nursing core courses and 11 credit hours of forensic courses as well as 6 credit hours of courses that synthesize and apply skills learned – including practicums and a scholarly project*

The core courses focus on three major themes, which are consistent with Xavier’s Jesuit philosophy for graduate programs: critical systematic inquiry, professional and personal development and management of information and resources in a rapidly changing health care environment. The forensic nursing track courses emphasize preparing students for future employment in a wide variety of roles in nursing forensics.

*We encourage students to research opportunities for practicum/projects and professional roles for the specific tracks (forensics and education) as part of the application process. Understanding local opportunities will help applicants determine the best tracks for their professional advancement.

Online Nursing (MSN) – Forensic Track Core Courses 20 credits

The MSN core courses include theoretical and practical knowledge, which serve as the foundation for advanced nursing education in a variety of roles. Core courses focus on three major themes which are consistent with the philosophy for the graduate program: Critical systematic inquiry, professional and personal development and management of information and resources in a rapidly changing healthcare environment. Courses include:

This course examines ethical frameworks, such as theories of justice, rights-based ethics and virtue ethics and their significance to the delivery of health care. Analysis of ethical dilemmas focuses on differentiating what is called traditional and modern ethical frameworks for decision-making. Application will be made within the parameters of nursing’s metaparadigm (person, nursing, caring, healing, health, environment) using personal and professional processes of valuing, unconditional acceptance and deciding in the preservation of wholeness and dignity.

Introduction to the role of theory in knowledge development and its relationship to nursing research, practice, and administration. Critical analysis of selected theoretical models within the discipline of nursing and of theories and concepts from other disciplines as used in nursing. Concepts related to the application of the theoretical concepts in providing holistic care are explored. Examination of the application models, theories and concepts in nursing practice, administration and research.

Exploration of modes of inquiry for systematic study of the application, use and evaluation of nursing innovations in clinical practice. Emphasis is placed on the identification and solution of clinical problems through scientific inquiry. Research is examined for evidence-based practices which include a critical review of research studies, nurse’s expertise and patient/family preferences. Discussion entails the importance of dissemination of research findings.

This course is designed to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge essential for the master’s prepared holistic nurse working in complex interprofessional technological healthcare systems. This course addresses basic computer and information management competencies. The student will also learn to manage and use healthcare data in decision making. Legal, ethical and practical ramifications of information technology in healthcare are examined. The major focus in this course is the management of information that supports improve health outcomes.

This course provides an overview of health care policy, including formulating and analyzing policy at the institutional, local, state, federal and global levels. Issues regarding the nursing work environment as well as social determinants and healthcare delivery/ regulation will be discussed. The influence of socio-cultural, economic, political, ethical, legal and historical context on nursing and health care policy will be explored. The role of the master’s prepared holistic nurse in health policy decisions in the public and private sectors will be explicated.

This course focuses on leadership and management concepts that are essential for holistic nurse leaders at various levels throughout the healthcare organization. The focus is to prepare holistic nurse leaders for collaborative practice in complex healthcare organizations through examination and application of effective leader behaviors.

Principles and biostatistical methods used in the study of the distribution and determinants of injury and disease through the interaction of environment and genetics in human populations (HP2020) are presented for use in the holistic development, implementation, and evaluation of primary, secondary and tertiary preventive and acute health care services in a variety of settings. Resources for epidemiological investigations within organizations and communities are introduced. Opportunities are provided to use the epidemiological and biostatistical methods of reasoning for determining causal inferences about the distribution and determinants of injury and disease (HP2020). Evidence-based innovative and evaluative health care delivery plans for clinical prevention and population health are developed using epidemiological and biostatistical data.
Prerequisites: NURS 502

Online Synthesis and Application Courses 6 credits

This course is designed for application of theory and principles from all previous courses, with particular emphasis in the area of concentration (administration, forensics, informatics, education, school nursing, etc.). Individually modified course objectives, supervised experiences, periodic seminar discussions and written practicum logs are methods used to facilitate the learning experience.

This course is designed for application of theory and principles from all previous courses, with particular emphasis in the area of concentration (administration, forensics, informatics, education, school nursing, etc.). Individually modified course objectives, supervised experiences, periodic seminar discussions and written practicum logs are methods used to facilitate the learning experience.

This course incorporates the design and development of a scholarly project that demonstrates synthesis of pedagogical strategies and concepts attained throughout courses within the MSN curriculum. The project shall be aimed at addressing an identified issue in the field of nursing, the scope of which may be varied. Elements integrated into the course/project include but are not limited to: nursing theory, change theory, critical thinking, microsystem assessment, communication, EBP, research, ethical and cultural considerations, informatics strategies, health practices and care management, improvement of patient outcomes, holistic care, awareness of healthcare related issues, intrinsic and extrinsic forces, organizational frameworks and considerations, and resource utilization. Project topics must be approved by the track chair/coordinator.

Forensic Track Courses 11 credits

(Required in addition to the 26 semester hour MSN core, synthesis and application)

Students who choose the Forensic Nursing track are provided with an in-depth study of the principles of forensic nursing. Graduates of this track are prepared to apply the science and nursing to both civil and criminal investigations and legal matters. This track combines nursing and law while providing healthcare as well as collecting evidence for legal matters. Obtaining your MSN Forensic Nursing degree prepares you for legal matters which deal with patients ranging from issues such as sexual assault to patients needing intense clinical care. Victims of violent trauma such as intimate partner violence (IPV), sexual assault and neglect require healthcare professionals who are taught to treat them as well as collect evidence that can be used by law enforcement and in court to prosecute perpetrators. Workers in the forensic nursing specialization fight for anti-violence and are an important resource that promotes the rights of the victim.

This course provides a review of forensic nursing science, forensic science/criminalistics, forensic anthropology and the criminal justice system through the lens of interprofessional collaboration and population health. Forensic nursing concepts addressed in the course will include a review of the expanded and collaborative roles in working with forensic scientists, criminalists and the criminal justice system. The specific areas for this course related to forensic science/criminalistics include the crime scene, death investigation, physical evidence, drugs and DNA. The introduction of population-health concepts will allow graduate MSN/MSCJ students to identify a population of interest (aggregate) related to forensic nursing while using evidence-based practices to develop effective approaches to care for victims of trauma, violence and crime. This course is intended to prepare graduate MSN/MSCJ dual degree nurses the opportunity to “apply the nursing process to public or legal proceedings, and apply forensic health care in the scientific investigation of trauma and/or death to abuse, violence, criminal activity, liability and accidents.”

A comprehensive examination of the behavior, emotional responses, and cognitive decision-making of both victims and perpetrators of crime. Elements of victimology, as well as the psychosocial ramifications of the criminal act on the person, the family and the community will be explored. The expanded role of the psychiatric forensic nurse will be explored.

This course provides an evidence-based practice (EBP) framework for nursing care of the forensic population, their families as well as communities impacted by acts of violence and/or traumatic events. The EBP framework incorporates empirical and theoretical aspects from a multidisciplinary perspective in the planning and delivering nursing care. This course is intended to prepare nursing graduate students for further studies in various clinical roles such as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, Forensic Psychiatric Nurse, Legal Nurse Consultant, Forensic Nursing Death Investigator and/or Nurse Coroner.

Inter-professional care recognizes a culture of respect, concisely clear communication, interdependent care for client-centered outcomes, and integration of services through shared decision making. This course will provide students with an opportunity to practice across disciplines in teams to meet the needs of individuals, families and the community.


Our Admission Process is Easy, on Your Phone or Computer!

  • Once admitted into the program, students may start online classes in August, January or May (fall, spring or summer semesters).
  • Applications for this program are accepted throughout the year. Applicants are notified of the admission decision as soon as possible.
  • Applicants are encouraged to submit completed applications in a timely manner to allow for review and processing. Applications are processed immediately upon receiving all required materials.
  • The admission committee considers all information contained in the admission application, including prior grades, test scores and evidence for potential for success in graduate study.
  • No admission tests (i.e. GRE) are required for applying to this graduate nursing program.

Applicant Requirements

  • Be a registered nurse with an unencumbered RN license in the state where practicum experiences are to be completed. A minimum of 1 year of nursing experience is required, a strong candidate will have a minimum of 2 years of nursing experience.
  • Hold a BSN and be a graduate of a regionally accredited college or university’s nursing program with CCNE or ACEN (formerly NLNAC) accreditation (College of Nursing will verify).
  • An undergraduate statistics course with a grade of C or better is required for admission.
  • A strong applicant will have a 3.0 GPA.

To be considered for admission, students must submit the following:

Get Started on Xavier University’s free online application. You can begin the process in just a few clicks.


One official transcript directly from all colleges or universities that you have attended for any undergraduate and graduate course work. Applicants must have a degree from a regionally accredited university. A strong candidate will have a minimum of a 3.0 GPA. Send transcripts to:

Xavier University
ATTN: Admission Processing Center
3800 Victory Parkway
Cincinnati, OH 45207-5131

For electronic transcripts, send to:

Current résumé or curriculum vitae outlining nursing experience. 

A 3-page goal statement that addresses the following points:

  • Why are you applying to Xavier University?
  • What MSN track are you applying for and why? How do you plan to use the degree and specialty?
  • What experiences have prepared you for graduate study? (or have influenced your desire to pursue graduate studies)
  • Graduate school is challenging and a large time commitment, especially with working, family, other responsibilities. What are your plans and strategies for being successful in your graduate program?
  • We also consider the writing quality of this essay. If writing is a challenge for you, also address strategies to help you in this area.

3 professional recommendations, (Please provide contact information for recommenders in the online application. An electronic form will be sent via email.)

A strong candidate will provide:

  • At least reference from a direct manager or supervisor who evaluates their clinical work.
  • Two references will be from someone with a masters or doctoral degree

State Authorization

View the complete list of approved states on the State Authorization page.


Get More from Your Education with a Graduate Degree from Xavier

At Xavier, we understand that no two degree programs and no two students are alike. Therefore, we structure every online degree program to address the unique needs of individual students and have created unique fee structures for each degree program, as well.

Per Credit Hour


Total Estimated Tuition

The amounts listed are for the 2023-2024 academic year, and include classes from Summer 2023 through Spring 2024. Tuition cost is per credit hour unless otherwise stated. For the full, official listing, please visit
Xavier University reserves the right to correct any computational or clerical errors.

Ready to Get Started?


Students enrolled in Xavier’s online programs take classes with the same world-class faculty as our traditional students.

Dr. Angie Liggett is currently the Coordinator and an Teaching Professor in the graduate forensic tracks at Xavier University College of Nursing. She is a life-long resident of the Cincinnati area and graduated from Bethesda Hospital School of Nursing in 1985. Dr. Liggett graduated from the College of Mt. St. Joseph with her BSN in 2006. She was awarded her MSN in 2010 from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and received a certificate in Forensic Nursing from the Cyril Wecht Law School. Dr. Liggett received her Doctorate in Health Administration with a focus on Health Policy and Advocacy from Capella University in 2017.

Dr. Liggett’s capstone project at Duquesne was a training program, “Forensic Nursing in Trauma,” for ER staff. Her dissertation was titled, “Prevalence of Substance Abuse Screening in Adolescents by Pediatricians.” The methodology for this study was a qualitative survey, utilizing a modified Determinants of Implementation Behavior Questionnaire (DIBQ) survey tool and was based on the Theoretical Domains Framework (TDF).

With over 36 years of nursing experience, Dr. Liggett has worked in many clinical settings, both in rural and urban hospitals, mainly in the surgical and emergency room arenas. Her roles have included Med/Surg charge nurse, Director of Surgical Services, Perioperative Care Manager, Materials/Inventory Systems Manager, and Project Coordinator for corporate nursing. She was employed by the state, surveying health care facilities and investigating complaints and claims of harm. She was the Compliance Officer focusing on Title IX and other regulatory issues at a local college of nursing.

Dr. Liggett was a member of her previous county’s first rape/violence task force. She was also a member of the Cincinnati City Council Task Force for the Prevention of Campus Gender-Based Violence. She was a member and a previous chairperson for her community’s Board of Mental Health and Recovery and also that board’s Finance Advisory Committee. She has volunteered with a battered woman’s program and is a volunteer in her community’s Smallpox Response program and with a Disaster Medical Assistance Team.
Her journey in forensic nursing started prior to any formalized specialty. Dr. Liggett trained nurses regarding domestic violence (DV) in the late 1980’s. The physicians where she worked would call on her to consult with patients who were victims of DV, now known as interpersonal violence (IPV). While working in the ER, she became certified in trauma nursing and as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE).

Carlene is a Teaching Professor who graduated with her diploma in Nursing from St. Clare’s Hospital Health Center School of Nursing, NYC, in 1976. She earned her BSN in 1979 from Marywood University in PennsylvaniaShe also completed her MSN with a specialty in Healthcare Law was achieved at Xavier University in 2006 followed by a Post Masters certificate in Nursing Education from the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing in 2007. Currently, Carlene is a PhD c. with a focus in Health Services / Health Care Administration through Walden University. Her doctoral dissertation is focused on ‘How Clinical Nurse Managers describe the personal and professional impact of fatigue’.

Since 1976 Carlene has worked in a variety of settings to include an internship in The United States Senate on the Senate Subcommittee for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP); Certified Case Management of Workers Compensation, National Catastrophic injury CCM, long term and short term disability, return to work; Surgical Intensive Care (SICU) at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, Trauma Center; Rehabilitation; Nursing Director for The University Pain Control Center, acute and chronic pain management; Director, Leadership Development for Patient Services at CCHMC; designed, developed and provided NCLEX preparation at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for Nurse Interns;  Adjunct faculty for the University of Cincinnati, College of Nursing. She has presented locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally on Case Management, Pain Management, Healthcare law, Critical thinking, Ethics, Professional issues, Games/ Simulation in learning, Communication, and scope of practice including the AACN Synergy Model of Patient Care.

Dr. Lisa Niehaus is a Senior Teaching Professor at Xavier University College of Nursing. Dr. Niehaus’ educational credentials and leadership experience guide her role as Xavier faculty and her role as project director for the Nurse Faculty Loan Program for Xavier’s DNP Program.

Beginning in 2009, she worked closely with Dr. Susan Schmidt to develop, refine, and implement federal and state grant objectives in her role of a coordinator within the grants, which involved local and national collaboration. As coordinator, she researched data analytics and wrote Health Resources Services Administration (HRSA) quarterly reports, which were peer-reviewed by HRSA authorities and accepted for submission. Nationally recognized by HRSA Grant projects, she served in Peer Learning Communities where innovation was shared, and mentorship of other grantees was possible. As NEPQR-IPCP Cooperative HRSA Grant Project Coordinator, Dr. Niehaus collaborated with Cincinnati Health Department, Episcopal Retirement Services, and Black Stone Home Care, demonstrating how interprofessional collaborative practice teams change population health outcomes. During the HRSA grant activities, she established relationships within the community, with community leaders and partners, and evaluated all outcomes.

As a recent DNP graduate in Population Health Leadership Dr. Niehaus’ facilitation expertise, promotes future nurses seeking to advance nursing practice, lead the transformation of nursing education, bridge practice needs with educational program development, and advance population-focused care.

Choosing a Master's in Forensic Nursing Program

This interprofessional healthcare education program has a curriculum that specializes in the diverse roles and responsibilities of the forensic nurse, as well as an independent practitioner. Nursing students will be given a personalized track to prepare nursing graduates for criminal and civil investigations and legal matters as well as an in-depth application to these nursing principles. In addition to the MSN Forensics nursing practicum, a dual MSN/MS (Criminal Justice major) is another option for qualified registered nurses who are interested in pursuing forensic nursing.

The duties and roles of a forensic nurse are more specific than regular nurses. Some of the additional duties include but aren’t limited to evaluating and caring for victims of, assault, domestic abuse, child and elder abuse, sexual crimes and neglect. Legal evidence from these victims is collected and secured as the forensic nurse treats them.

What Can I do with a MSN in Forensic Nursing?

There are many different forensic nurse jobs that aspiring forensic nurses can plan a long-term career for. Below are some of the many clinical practice options available for those in an advanced practice nursing profession:

A forensic psychiatric nurse commonly called an FPN is typically in charge of the evaluation of individuals in need of psychiatric evaluations, which are commonly court-ordered. FPN’s also are sometimes responsible for the evaluation and treatment of criminals in an institution or correctional facility who may be mentally ill.
Legal nurse consultants are registered nurses that use their expertise and special training in the medical field to consult on various healthcare system-related legal cases.
A forensic gerontology specialist typically works to help investigate cases involving the abuse, neglect or exploitation of elderly people. These nurses also work to raise awareness regarding legal and human rights issues the elderly often face. They normally work in hospitals, nursing homes and other facilities dedicated to senior care.

Forensic Nurse Salary

Remember that salaries for different forensic nurses’ work are always different. The salary of a forensic registered nurse depends on the location and experience level. The national median salary of a forensic registered nurse is $63,263 but a forensic nurse can make anywhere between $46,509 to $90,960 annually.

Why Choose Xavier University for you MSN in Forensic Nursing?

Forensic nurses usually get their bachelor’s degree in nursing or other healthcare-related fields, and then go on to their masters in nursing while specializing in a forensic track. Xavier offers all the tools you need to become a forensic nurse. If the student is full-time, it can take as little as two years to obtain an MSN in the forensic nursing track.

Ready to Get Started?


This master’s of science in nursing (MSN) online program is an accredited program by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE), the premier accrediting agency for baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs.

This program is approved by the Ohio Board of Nursing (OBN).

These online programs are endorsed by the American Holistic Nurses Credentialing Corporation (AHNCC). Only seventeen schools in the nation currently have this endorsement, and this endorsement permits graduates to sit for the Holistic Nurse Certification (HNC) examination. The MSN Education Track program (and the PM certificate program in Nursing Education) prepares graduates to sit for the NCC Certified Nurse Educator exam. The MSN FNP program (and the PM Certificate Program) prepares graduates for FNP certification through either ANCC or AANP certification boards.

No. The master’s of science in nursing degree is from Xavier University and is awarded on meeting coursework standards that are independent of course delivery mode. Participants will earn an MSN degree.

Yes! Xavier University and the College of Nursing have been consistently recognized at the national level for having one of the best online master of science in nursing (MSN) programs for nursing education. See a list of all of our accredited programs awards on our Rankings page.

No. The degree is from Xavier University and is awarded on meeting coursework standards that are independent of course delivery mode.

Students may find that they can get to know their professor/instructor and other students better in an online course than in a traditional face-to-face course. Today,there are many options for interacting with your instructors and classmates in your online degree program, including discussion boards, video or audio files from your instructor, email and video conferencing. There may be additional opportunities for interaction available based on the course and instructor.

Participation expectations vary by professor. Courses will be asynchronous with no set meeting times; however, practicum and scholarly project courses may include an online synchronous session (at the discretion of the instructor) at the end of the semester for student sharing/collaboration purposes. Nursing administration and faculty in this program are very sensitive to the need for flexibility of working professionals.

Online MSN program courses include components such as readings, activities, video lectures, discussion boards and other peer interaction, tests/quizzes and group projects. Most courses do not include mandatory synchronous meeting times; however, they are synchronously paced – students progress through the course together according to the scheduled course content and activities. Xavier prides itself on upholding the value of “cura personalis,” or “care of the whole person,” in its classes. Nursing administration faculty maintain those values in our online courses by constructing activities that build a sense of community among participants and by making themselves available for questions and instructional support.

APRNs are nurses who have met advanced educational and clinical practice requirements. The four types of Advanced Practice Registered Nursing roles include:

  • Nurse Practitioner (NP)
  • Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM)
  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
  • Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

If you are not a registered nurse but hold a bachelor’s degree in another field and would like to earn your MSN degree, Xavier’s MIDAS program may be the right fit. This full-time on-campus 20-month MSN program is designed for individuals who have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline but wish to be a licensed registered nurse (RN). Upon successful completion of the program, the student is awarded the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and is eligible to sit for the National Council Licensing Exam-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN).

Accreditation is very important for online nursing degree programs. Employers often want to verify the legitimacy of an online nursing degree, and agencies such as the CCNE are reliable authorities on legitimate programs. CCNE works to ensure that schools maintain quality nursing education and curriculum in their master’s and baccalaureate degree programs. In order for schools to be CCNE accredited, they must have a nursing degree program established for a minimum of one year. Next, the school’s program’s mission, goals, and expected outcomes are evaluated. Once the BSN degree program and master’s nursing degree program have met the standards of CCNE, an onsite visit is conducted by accredited nursing and health professionals who then send a report to the council. The council will then inform the schools if they are accredited for the BSN and master of nursing programs. online sessions in their courses.

None of the MSN programs or Post Master’s certificate programs here (Education, FNP, Forensics) provide nursing licensure in any state. Nursing licensure is a pre-requisite for admission to these programs.

If you would like to continue your collegiate nursing education beyond a master’s degree, Xavier also offers a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Population Health Leadership (DNP) program.