Monday, October 14, 2013

What Is Forensic Nursing

Nurses who are fascinated with the legal system and crime investigation, or those who are drawn to helping victims of sexual assault, abuse, or other violent crime, may be interested in the field of forensic nursing. This relatively-new profession creates a liaison between the health care and criminal justice systems.


A forensic nurse has specialized training in evidence collection, criminal procedures, legal testifying, and treating victims of crimes. The most common work for a forensic nurse is treating sexual assault victims and gathering evidence for investigation. Becoming a certified sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) is the typical entry point for a career in forensic nursing. SANEs are very much in demand, as the United States Department of Justice notes that over 262,000 sexual assaults on women occur yearly.


Forensic nurses assist law enforcement officials in crime investigation for other incidents as well, including accidental injuries and deaths, homicides, suicide attempts, job-related injuries, domestic violence, child abuse and elder abuse. As with sexual assault cases, they treat the crime victims for trauma and injury, and gather evidence. They document injuries from violence with forensic photography, and evaluate any suspicious injuries. For example, a child with a broken arm, or a woman stating she broke her nose by falling down, must be evaluated for the possibility someone injured them intentionally.


Most forensic nurses work in hospital emergency rooms. They also work in clinics, women's shelters, prosecutor's offices, psychiatric clinics and insurance companies. They may be called to assist at disaster scenes, where they respond to acute medical needs, deal with post-trauma distress, and work to maintain services for the entire community. Some work in the offices of medical examiners and coroners, collecting evidence during autopsies. Forensic nurses may work as 24-hour on-call independent contractors.


Forensic nurses also work as legal nurse consultants, and those who complete a two-year paralegal degree in addition to a Bachelor of Science registered nursing degree will be able to work with law enforcement and attorneys investigating case facts, and gathering information on related laws, court decisions, and legal articles. Some forensic nurses go on to obtain a law degree.


The first national convention for SANEs took place in 1992, where attendees created the term "forensic nursing." From this initial assembly, the nurses created the International Association of Forensic Nurses, which had over 3200 members as of 2008. Forensic nursing was officially recognized as a specialty by the American Association of Nurses in 1996.

Tags: sexual assault, also work, crime investigation, forensic nurse, forensic nursing, nurses work