Forensic nurses manage and provide care to those who have experienced violence, trauma, and abuse. They apply nursing knowledge to be used to deliver justice through our legal system. Forensic nurses work with victims, medical and health facilities, community centers, law enforcement, and the judicial system. They are part crime investigators, and healthcare providers joined together to deliver a unique contribution to patient care.
Forensic nurses possess a special type of compassion that permits them to provide emotional support to victims while keeping the task of gathering evidence needed by law enforcement at the forefront. They are sensitive to the patient’s needs but are cognizant that the way they can help the most is to assess what will be required to carefully develop a case.
Some forensic nurses focus on sexual assault and become members of a team investigating those crimes. They acquire special training and certification to assist adults and children with these traumatic injuries. Human trafficking victims or others who have been neglected are often seen and managed by forensic nurses.
Forensic nurses often receive advanced training to improve their skills. Some become certified as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). Others become advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) or clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) specializing in forensic or mental health.
Forensic nurses’ roles depend on what setting they work in. Forensic nurses may examine prisoners in correctional facilities and gather evidence from those who have encountered violence to be administered in court. They interview patients being mindful that many have mental illness and have difficulty responding or may react irrationally to their questioning.
Some forensic nurses are involved in community or nonprofit anti-violence groups. They may be asked to provide lectures and reach out directly by planning awareness programs.
Forensic nurses often work in the ED to help examine those who have experienced sexual assaults or other violence. They gather evidence during the exam and comfort the victim and their families.
In the medical examiner’s office, forensic nurses may assist coroners in examining victims’ bodies to help determine the cause of death. Some forensic nurses are asked to testify as expert witnesses in court cases.
Forensic nurses must have excellent communication skills. They are responsible for thoroughly interviewing patients and others who may be involved in crimes being investigated. At the same time, they must be sensitive to the emotional and psychological state of the victim or person being questioned.
They need to be precise in their documentation and meticulously collect any evidence to be admissible in court.
Forensic nurses need to be compassionate in a way that exceeds regular empathy. They interact with patients and families who have experienced horrendous injuries or losses. They must be skilled in determining the right way to comfort these victims and, at the same time, protect themselves from emotional stress.