MUSC The Catalyst
MUSC arial view


MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesCatalyst AdvertisersSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesPublic RelationsResearch GrantsCatalyst PDF FileMUSC home pageCommunity HappeningsCampus NewsApplause

MUSCMedical LinksCharleston LinksArchivesCatalyst AdvertisersSeminars and EventsResearch StudiesPublic RelationsResearch GrantsMUSC home pageCommunity HappeningsCampus NewsApplause


Forensic nurses play vital role in health care

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 sexual assault.
“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 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

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.