While many people think the solution to violence occurs in police
stations, courtrooms and prisons, there is a group of nurses who
understands that violence is a health care problem.
During the week of Nov. 9-13, the International Association of Forensic
Nurses (IAFN) will celebrate Forensic Nurses Week. Forensic nurses are
on the front line making sure victims of rape, child abuse and domestic
violence receive compassionate care, while vital forensic evidence is
collected and preserved.
More than 25 years ago a handful of nurses recognized that rape victims
often waited for hours in hospital emergency departments for care and
evidence collection. Now more than 500 communities have specially
trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) providing care to
victims of sexual assault.
“But SANEs are not the only kind of forensic nurse,” said Bobbi Jo
O’Neal, IAFN board member and deputy county coroner in Charleston. She
sees nurse death investigators playing a critical role in death
investigation as the country faces a shortage of forensic pathologists.
Other forensic nursing roles include nurses who work in correctional
facilities and nurses who work with attorneys as legal nurse
consultants. “Any place where nursing and victims of violence intersect
you will find a forensic nurse,” O'Neal said.
To meet the increasing need of forensic nurses many colleges of nursing
are creating forensic nursing programs. More than 25 programs exist
throughout the country.
MUSC is working with community leaders, law enforcement and victim’s
advocates to provide a comprehensive program for survivors of adult
“This program will allow the survivior to present to the emergency
department for treatment as needed, and also be able to access a People
Against Rape advocate and a forensic nurse examiner who will provide
evidence collection. This evidence collection is a critical step in
increasing prosecution of sexual assaults within our community,” said
Debbie Browning, R.N., perinatal services director. “We plan to offer
SANE training within our community in the coming months.” For more
information about forensic nursing, visit http://www.iafn.org or call 792-8557.
This year IAFN celebrates its 17th anniversary of providing education
and support to forensic nurses throughout the United States, Canada and
22 other countries. “There is data that shows that up to 37.5 percent
of health care costs may be the result of violence,” said Jennifer
Pierce-Weeks, president of IAFN.
In a recent study by the U.S. Department of Justice, 60 percent of the
children surveyed were exposed to violence within the past year, either
directly or indirectly. Forensic nurses know that some of these
exposures place children at risk for lifelong health care problems.
Forensic nurses are in the best position to make a difference, by
creating programs to both prevent violence and provide early
recognition and treatment of the effects of violence.
Friday, Nov. 13, 2009