Forensic Nursing – sounds intriguing doesn’t it? For fans of the TV series CSI, it must be a dream come true to think that there is such a profession as forensic nursing. They are most likely saying to themselves: Oh to be one of them… to be on the field gathering evidence, playing detective…wouldn’t that be a dream? Well, not exactly. Forensic nurses rarely, if not, ever go out to the field, retrieve bodies and process crime scenes. A small majority of forensic nurses hold posts in a coroner’s offices. But most of the time they work with living and breathing patients. These nurses still work in a hospital setting.
What is Forensic Nursing?
To clear the air of misconceptions, it is first important to define what forensic nursing really is. Forensic nursing is a young, up and coming specialty nursing area. In essence, forensic nursing is a field of nursing that intersects with the law in one way or another. Forensic nursing was first recognized by the American Nurses Association as a nursing specialty in the early 1990s. Most forensic nurses work with victims of assault and battery. These nurses work hand in hand with law officers in collecting evidence and patient statements against the perpetrators.
The Forensic Nurse
Forensic nurses still perform basic nursing tasks such as monitoring vital signs and giving out of medication. They may be trained in the art of gathering evidence from a victim. These can include filling out a sexual assault kit from victims of abuse. Most forensic nurses work in rape and battery wards. Some of them work as ER nurses, specializing in assault victims. Others work in psych and rehab units that deal with sexual assault victims.
Forensic nurses may also be asked to stand witness in a court of law. It has been said that “the forensic nurse is a victim’s best advocate” and that is true. Some victims of assault, battery and sexual abuse need to feel safe and trust the people around them. Only then will they be able to divulge important info about their case. Most of the time, it is the forensic nurse who will be listening and reports what he/she has learned to the authorities.
For those wanting to get into the field of forensic nursing, the initial thing to do is to volunteer/work for a special organization. These organizations may include those that help battered and abused women and children. With this experience in hand, the nurse now has a better chance of specializing in forensic nursing. Nurses can also attend several forensic nursing seminars and workshops to help further their knowledge in the forensic field.
There are a lot of places where a forensic nurse can work abroad. He/she is welcomed in a psychiatric setting as well as in an emergency unit. The nurse may also work in a ward that specializes in the care of assault victims.
The need for forensic nurses is growing and it will continue to grow in the years ahead. Soon, all hospitals will need forensic nurses in their staff.
A Forensic Nurse in Every Nurse
It is important that there be a forensic nurse in every nurse. A nurse should always be aware of a patient’s legal rights. He/she should be able to spot red flags that indicate that a patient is a victim of abuse. He/she should also be ready to take a legal stand for the patient when the situation calls for it.