A Practical Guide to Forensic Nursing: Incorporating Forensic Principles into Nursing Practice

Nursing Book Club

A Practical Guide to Forensic Nursing: Incorporating Forensic Principles into Nursing Practice

By Angela F. Amar and L. Kathleen Sekula (Sigma Theta Tau, 2016)
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Reviewed By Christine Contillo, RN, BSN, PHN

One of my colleagues in college health just received her certification as a SAFE nurse. SAFE is an acronym for sexual assault forensic examiner, a role that involves both investigation and caring for victims, including children and the elderly. To put it in a nutshell, SAFE nursing is where violence intersects with health.

A new textbook from Sigma Theta Tau, A Practical Guide to Forensic Nursing: Incorporating Forensic Principles into Nursing Practice, is a welcome addition to the canon of this relatively new specialty.

Healthcare and the Law

This book is a timely one. In 2014, The Joint Commission established new standards requiring hospitals to develop criteria for identifying and responding to patients who have been victims of neglect and violence.

Coauthors Angela Amar, RN, Ph.D., FAAN, and L. Kathleen Sekula, APRN, Ph.D., FAAN, are innovators in this area of advanced nursing practice. They and their contributing authors examine the many different aspects of the specialty, including forensic nursing theory: the intersection of criminal or civil law and the medical world.

As the authors note, “While all nurses are familiar with the healthcare system, fewer nurses are familiar and comfortable with legal proceedings.” This book provides valuable information that can be incorporated into practice, beginning with theoretical perspectives on violence and extending to the role of the forensic nurse in the hospital emergency department and even the courtroom.

Case Studies and Questionnaires

The authors provide many case studies, helping the reader to understand how to recognize subtle indicators. Accompanying photographs show how and where to look for physical evidence as well as the dos and don’ts of handling and preserving any evidence you find.

The book includes sample questionnaires that can be used to elicit information from patients, who are often reluctant to open up about this type of abuse. Also discussed are the neurobiology of trauma and different evidence-based treatment options.

The umbrella of forensic nursing can extend outside the hospital to include public health nurses and multi-disciplinary teams working with law enforcement or the military. There is a chapter on violence intervention and prevention programs, including discussion of neighborhood watches and community policing.

Twenty years ago, while working in a small community, my local police department called me to pronounce death when they found a body outside. I looked for the obvious signs, but I’m now sure there could have been much that I missed. This book would have been an enormous aid in determining whether or not that death involved violence.

As nursing becomes tougher and the myriad skills more complex, it seems like what we previously thought of as nursing school has become just a launching pad for further study. If your previous training hasn’t covered this particular area, or even if it has, the information in this book is well worth having. 

Christine Contillo, RN, BSN, is a public health nurse who suggests joining a book club as a reason to put down trashy magazines and look smart on the subway.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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