Forensic Nursing Available to All Patients

Forensic nurses are trained to assess and treat victims of sexual assault and other crimes as well as collect and document evidence. State legislators are considering a bill that would require hospitals to offer forensic nurses who care for crime victims. House Bill 1013 would require all of Connecticut’s 31 acute-care hospitals to make forensic nurses available to patients. The bill moved out of the public health committee last week and awaits approval from the rest of the General Assembly.

Hospitals are not required to have forensic nurses on staff, and only a few offer the service. Besides examining sexual assault victims, nurses with forensic nursing courses specialize in domestic violence, child and elder abuse and emergency trauma. Under the bill, hospitals would not be required to staff forensic nurses, but would have to ensure they could provide one in an emergency. Forensic nursing gained momentum in the early 1990s, when Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs began springing up nationwide. The American Nursing Association (ANA) recognized it as a specialty in 1995. About 100 nurses in the state have anadvanced degree in forensic nursing, said Lynne Price, an associate professor in the graduate nursing program at Quinnipiac University in Hamden and a member of the Connecticut chapter of the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

A number of hospitals in the state have nurses certified as Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, a type of forensic nurse. It often is seen as an entry point into forensic nursing, health officials said. To become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, nurses must enroll in a 40-hour program that trains them to conduct delicate pelvic exams.

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