Professional Certificate in Nurse Death Investigation

Professional Certificate in Nurse Death Investigation

Online Program


18 months


16 Units


Learn to identify the who, what, where, when and how. Acquire the knowhow for collecting and preserving evidence, documenting and photographing a scene, and properly conducting an autopsy through this fully online program. The amalgamation of compassion, dedication, attention to detail and critical thinking are what make an outstanding nurse death investigator. Now's the time to make your move.

Designed For

Intended participants include:

  • Registered nurses
  • LVNs
  • Other licensed nurse professionals

All courses provide California Board of Registered Nursing continuing education credit. UCR Extension is an accredited provider.

What You'll Learn

  • Roles and responsibilities of a nurse death investigator
  • Best methods for collecting evidence, documenting a scene, and photographing and preserving evidence
  • Procedures for identifying and confirming the decedent's identity
  • Changes that occur to the body following death and the stages that follow
  • Process and procedure of an autopsy

What You Can Do With This Certificate

Positions are available in a variety of venues including, but not limited to, coroner's office or medical examiner's office. They might include:

  • Forensic Nurse Death Investigator
  • Medicolegal Death Investigator
  • Deputy Coroner
  • Forensic Nurse
  • Coroner

Program Overview


16 Units

“In the midst of a career and personal transition, I realized that a traditional graduate program would not be feasible. Through UCR Extension, I was able to obtain my professional certificate. It was convenient, affordable, and expedient. Thanks to UCR Extension, I am prepared for a successful career in forensics!”

Tierra Williams

RN & Clinician II
Children's National Health System/Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Washington D.C.

Earning the Certificate

Prior to enrolling, please ensure that you meet the following minimum requirements:

  • Registered nurse
  • Licensed vocational nurse or equivalent

Online Tutorial

To help prepare you for completing a course in our online learning environment, check out this tutorial: [link TBD]

For more information see How to Earn a Certificate

Certificate Courses

Our certificate programs are designed to be flexible, allowing you the option to take just a few courses or to earn the complete certificate. If choosing to complete the certificate, we recommend you get the most out of your experience by following the suggested completion path below.

Quarter 1

Introduction to Nurse Death Investigation


1 units

Explores how nursing knowledge and the nursing process are utilized within the death investigation system.

You will discuss:

  • roles and responsibilities of the multidisciplinary team
  • legal and ethical issues
  • religious/cultural considerations
  • the importance of communication between multiple agencies

The career trends in nurse death investigation are also covered.

Forensic Approaches to Blunt Force and Firearm Injuries

BMSC X465.1

2 units

This course examines injuries incurred from vehicular trauma, stabbings and firearms and other assaults. Emphasis is on recognition and preservation of vital forensic evidence from the victim and within the hospital or emergency department. The principles of injury mechanics and ballistics are illustrated with laboratory findings and case studies of victims. Common omissions and errors in injury assessment and death investigation are discussed.

Quarter 2

Introduction to Forensic Pathology for Health Care Specialists

BMSC X465.9

2 units

The evolution of the present-day forensic pathologist and the role(s) he/she plays in implementing the law. Discussions include:

  • The physical changes occurring to the body upon and after death and how these changes impact determination of the cause
  • Manner and mechanism of death
  • Law enforcement investigation
  • Autopsy and after-death body care are explored

Death Investigation Evidence Collection and Documentation


2 units

Assessing and identifying evidence is vital to the outcome of a death investigation. Learn the proper procedures for descriptive and photographic documentation, and collection of the physical evidence at a scene. Also discussed are:

  • The importance of establishing and maintaining a chain of custody
  • Determining scene security and safety
  • Interviewing
  • Gathering information about the decedent's history

Quarter 3

Death Investigation I: Natural, Accidental and Undetermined Deaths


3 units

Learn about the death investigation processes within three categories:

  • Natural death, resulting primarily from a disease
  • Accidental death, when there is little or no evidence of an intent to cause harm
  • Undetermined death, when there is uncertainty about the circumstances surrounding the death

Documentation and evaluation of both the scene and the body will be discussed in detail, and the forensic autopsy/medical examination process of the body is also studied, including the medical and non-medical factors unique to each case.

Death Investigation 2: Homicides and Suicides


3 units

Learn about the death investigation process for these two categories:

  • Suicide – death, a purposeful action set in motion to end one's life, and only their final actions can be relevant to the investigation
  • Homicide – death, from intentional harm to a person by another person

Documentation and evaluation of both the scene and the body are discussed in detail for each of these categories, including the differences between the medical and legal determination of homicide. The forensic autopsy/medical examination of the body is also studied, including the medical and non-medical factors unique to each case.

Quarter 4

Death Investigation: SUID/Child and Infant Deaths


3 units

About 3,700 infants in the U.S. die suddenly and unexpectedly each year. These deaths are referred to as sudden unexpected infant deaths (SUID), and is one of the leading causes of death among infants one month through one year of age (CJ Foundation for SIDS). Learn about the death investigation process when there is a SUID death or other child death. You will discuss in detail:

  • Differences between SIDS and SUIDs
  • Scene investigation
  • Infant growth and development
  • Reporting guidelines
  • Critical questions that death investigators and medical examiners should ask before beginning the autopsy

“My interest in forensic nursing began in the Emergency Room--meeting and managing the needs of victims of violence. Soon, I advanced my education in both clinical forensic and death investigation, and now have almost 20 years of experience in this challenging and ever-changing field. I love teaching forensics and doing in-depth training for law enforcement, nurses and first responders.”

Kristine Karcher

Chief Deputy Medical Examiner
Coos County

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