This week is Forensic Nurses Week. Organized by The International Association of Forensic Nurses, it is a time when we recognize the contributions and commitments forensic nurses make and raise awareness about the importance of their work.
The week is celebrated internationally though awareness events in local communities and education efforts to teach colleagues about the forensic nursing practice. Forensic nurses all over the world wear lilac (the designated color of forensic nursing) to mark the week.
“This week is so important because awareness of the specialized knowledge and skills of a forensic nurse can increase access to care for those individuals who have forensic needs as well as health care needs,” said Sheila Early, RN, BScN, and board president. “Creating awareness of forensic nursing services within the health care world can only lead to better public awareness and access.”
According to the association, health care consumers are becoming more aware of the value of having skilled caregivers to meet their forensic needs in life and in death—but there is still a long way to go because many people are not familiar with the forensic nursing specialty and its role in victim care and the criminal process.
Forensic nurses provide specialized care for patients who are victims and/or suspects who have experienced injury (both intentional and unintentional). These healthcare professionals are nurses first, but have knowledge of the legal system and expertise in forensic science. After meeting a patient’s medical and psychosocial needs, a forensic nurse often collects evidence, provides medical testimony in court, and consults with legal authorities.
“We are not the first group of helping professionals that come to mind when people think about violence,” said Jennifer Meyer. “Typically, they think of law enforcement, advocates or even prosecutors. However, at every step of the way—from reporting the crime to the courtroom—a forensic nurse is there. We provide hands-on care the moment a patient presents to our hospitals and clinics. We are present as they report to law enforcement and we are present to testify in cases that go through the justice system. The public deserves to know more about us and how to access our care.”
Forensic nurses use their advanced education and training to provide nursing care, collect evidence and provide consultation in a variety of areas including: sexual assault, intimate partner violence, child abuse and neglect, death investigation, elder mistreatment, corrections, emergency services, mass disasters, psychiatric mental health and public health.
For more information, visit www.ForensicNurses.org.