Web site spotlight: Forensic nurses provide care, help solve crime

Nurse Leader Insider, July 6, 2009

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Nurses all too often see the brutal aftermath of gun shootings, sexual assault, child abuse, and other violent acts when caring for patients, but since undergoing unique forensic training some can also see clues that trace back to their victimizers.

William S. Smock, MS, MD, professor of emergency medicine at University Hospital and Louisville Metro Police surgeon in Louisville, KY, created the voluntary program that teaches nurses how to collect forensic evidence in medical situations. The program requires nurses undergo 400 hours of training, including ride-alongs with police officers, visits to crime scenes, forensic photography training, and shifts with the state's medical examiners office. Nurses must also complete examinations and a research project, and attend weekly lectures.

"The goals of the program are to provide the highest level of medical care and also the highest level of forensic care for victims of violent crime," says Smock. "And these two are not mutually exclusive."

Four out of the eight nurses that began training in September 2008 recently received their official certification. In obtaining this new knowledge, nurses can gather crucial evidence when encountering wounded and abused patients that helps the Louisville Police Department determine the true happenings of incidents.

Editor's note: This excerpt was adapted from the article, "Forensic nurses provide care, help solve crime" featured in The Reading Room on HCPro's online resource center,

Do you need continuing education (CE) credits? Check out this month's CE article to find out how one hospital system faced unexpected changes during a Joint Commission survey or visit our archives and view a compilation of CE articles (marked with an asterisk).

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