When patients need care as a result of a violent or abusive situation, they often rely on forensic nurses to help provide a knowledgeable and compassionate bridge between the legal and health systems.
Today celebrates Forensic Nurses Day, and there is a continued need to understand the valuable work they perform and why forensic nurses are a crucial part of any hospital team. The day wraps up a week-long recognition by the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) to call attention to the work they do.
Forensic nurses have duties that overlap both nursing and legal needs. They provide the specialized healthcare and attention victims of violent acts require. With sensitivity, they help patients through immediate and long-term trauma of the physical after effects of being a victim of violence. But forensic nurses are also the best advocates for these patients in court and legal systems. As a first responder to the patient’s health needs, these nurses collect evidence in a specific way to help the legal system gather needed information and observations to prosecute.
A career in forensic nursing begins with a RN or APN and a desire to help those who have been victimized by violence, sexual assault, or neglect. Forensic nurses work with people of all ages and demographics. As the violence can be within a family (spousal abuse, child abuse, or elder abuse) or among strangers, those requiring care could be anyone. According to the IAFN, forensic nurses’ skills are also needed in corrections facilities, in corrections centers, and in the aftermath of mass tragedies as well.
As with other nursing specialties, certification is a good career move for this field as technology continues to move at a rapid pace. Certification is offered in specialties or in the advanced practice of forensic nursing. Many nurses with significant training in emergency care or critical care become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) to provide treatment and collect evidence of sexual assault victims.
When patients receive care from a forensic nurse, they know someone has their back and can help them take steps toward recovery and healing.