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How forensic nurses advocate for justice
Imagine that you are passionate about providing healthcare, but social justice issues are keeping you up at night. Is there a way to marry the two? The answer is yes – by pursuing a career in forensic nursing. As a forensic nurse, you will attend to the needs of crime victims, document traumatic events, and assist in the legal system. However, it goes deeper than that because you will also get a chance to advocate for justice.
Here is a closer look at how forensic nurses are at the frontline when it comes to advocating for justice for their patients.
Documenting and collecting evidence
Forensic nurses are trained to collect and document any object or part of an object that can establish a link between a victim and a perpetrator. The nurse can collect tangible evidence, such as glass fragments, or transient evidence, such as redness on the skin. Following the proper collection and documentation procedures makes the evidence usable in the justice system.
For example, a forensic nurse knows how to carefully remove clothing from a patient since it might contain traces of evidence, such as hair and fibers. The nurse will then use forceps with plastic-coated tips to carefully remove hair or debris from the patient’s body. They can also collect and document evidence of body fluids. For example, a forensic nurse can use a high-intensity lamp to visualize stains or biological secretions. This evidence can help solve even the most violent and brutal of cases.
A forensic nurse can be subpoenaed for a court case concerning a patient to testify as a factual or expert witness. As a factual witness, the forensic nurse describes what was done during the examination and what they observed afterward. On the other hand, when acting as an expert witness, the forensic nurse can testify based on their educated opinion.
Forensic nurses must ensure that their role as patient advocates does not conflict with their role as witnesses in a trial. The nurse should be willing to discuss their examination with prosecutors and defense attorneys. One way of ensuring transparency is meeting with attorneys from both sides simultaneously. That way, both sides have access to the same information. It can also be a good idea for a forensic nurse to talk to a hospital or agency legal counsel before talking to an external attorney to ensure they don’t breach consent laws when disclosing information about the patient.
Collaboration with law enforcement and other professionals
Forensic nurses can work closely with other professionals in the criminal justice system to advocate for their patients. As we have mentioned, they can work with prosecutors and attorneys to provide testimonies in critical trials. They can also work with prosecutors to ensure that patients receive appropriate care and support during the legal process.
Another possible collaboration is one between forensic nurses and victim advocates. These advocates provide victims of crime with services such as counseling. Forensic nurses can educate victim advocates about the medical implications of a victim’s case. They can also help social workers provide adequate support in their recovery.
Additionally, forensic nurses can work with other medical professionals to ensure that victims receive appropriate medical care and treatment. For example, patients can get tested for sexually transmitted infections and receive treatment for injuries. By providing these services, forensic nurses promote the healing and recovery of their patients.
Advocacy for victims
A forensic nurse spends several hours with patients, depending on the amount and type of injury involved. During this time, the nurse builds a connection with the patient. This rapport can encourage the patient to share their experience even in a court of law, which goes a long way in the pursuit of justice. A forensic nurse also ensures that the patient is informed of the next steps before they leave.
The path to becoming a forensic nurse
Becoming a forensic nurse opens the door to a career that helps you play an active role in seeking justice while providing healthcare to victims. You first need to earn a nursing degree to work in this field. You can further advance in your career and increase your earning power by pursuing an MSN in forensic nursing. The program at Cleveland State University is ideal if you would like to seek greater specialization, independence and clinical responsibility. You will gain skills such as physical assessment, forensic examination, and legal concepts in nursing and forensics.
Soft skills for forensic nurses
Being a forensic nurse means working in complicated situations, such as assisting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence. In addition to your technical expertise, you must learn soft skills to navigate these complex situations and stay competitive in your job. Here is a look at some soft skills that are useful for forensic nurses.
Forensic nurses use communication skills in every element of their practice, from documenting evidence to interviewing victims. Forensic nurses have to ask the right questions to get an accurate description of the incident. The forensic nurse also needs to be an excellent communicator to provide trauma victims with information regarding their treatment.
Competency in communication also proves useful when forensic nurses need to deliver expert medical testimony and collaborate with community partners and other professionals.
You need to demonstrate compassion toward patients who have recently undergone traumatic events so you can build high levels of trust with them, which is the foundation of providing patient-centered care.
Attention to detail
As the saying goes, the devil is in the details. Since a forensic nurse plays a crucial role in advocating for justice, you must notice even the tiniest detail, like a single strand of hair. It could be the key to finding a perpetrator in a case.
You will interact with victims of physical crimes in your line of work. Therefore, it’s incredibly important to exercise discretion and limit the information you reveal about your work to individuals outside the case.
The future of forensic nursing
Although the field of forensic nursing is relatively new, the future is quite promising. In addition to the increased opportunities, the profession will continue evolving and creating new practice roles.