Since forensic nursing is a fairly new field in nursing care, not too many people are aware yet of their roles. So many of these medical-legal professionals are already in the field helping victims of crimes by becoming instruments in putting the criminals behind bars. But how did this forensic practice start? Here’s a quick view of forensic nursing history.
Caregivers or health providers have been around for a long time now and many have already practiced forensic-type of services even before forensic nursing was recognized. In fact, during the 13th century, there were nurses who played the role of forensic practitioners as they examine the young women arranged to marry royalty.
These women were required to be virgins before they can proceed with the marriage. The nurses of that time were the ones who confirmed the women’s virginity to the monarchs. Nurses have also already worked with sexual assault and abuse cases during this period.
Prior to forensic nursing, sexual assault nurses were the key people who handled rape or sexual abuse cases. Most law enforcement agencies in the country have a team of these sexual assault professionals who arrive at the crime scene to gather all physical evidences that can affect prosecution later on.
These medical practitioners were tasked to handle these cases and not the crime scene investigators, medical examiners or forensic analysts. Homicide cases go to the police department’s CSIs but sexual assault cases are special.
The sexual assault response team model was initiated in California. Members of this team include the victim advocate, an officer of the police department, and a sexual assault examiner. This team works together in making a full and comprehensive investigation of the crime.
The victim advocate provides counseling to the victim and preps her for the long process ahead. The police take charge of the investigation of facts. The examiner gathers the evidence, documents them properly, and assesses them.
Medical professionals like nurses, counselors, and advocates who worked with rape victims in various hospitals and clinics first established a training program for sexual assault examiners in Memphis, Tennessee in 1976. Another program was launched in Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1977. These were necessary to improve the services so that sensitive cases like rape can be handled properly.
Many people during that time felt that the law enforcement couldn’t handle such cases efficiently. They were too insensitive on their approaches and most of the time, they dismissed claims of rape due to a lot of misconceptions, bias, or pure lack of knowledge and understanding on the matter.
It was in 1992 when the term forensic nursing was coined. About 70 sexual assault nurses and examiners gathered in Minneapolis that time to convene about their roles and how they can promote this service better as an organization. Shortly after, they formed the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), which now serves as the central unit to develop and promote forensic nursing nationwide and internationally. Come 1995, forensic nursing became an official specialization in the nursing practice when the American Nurses Association (ANA) recognized it.
The government began to take notice and state legislators are now considering to pass a bill that requires hospitals to employ forensic nurses, who will care for sexual assault victims as well as victims of other crimes. There are a number of hospitals in the state of Connecticut that have certified sexual assault nurse examiners. This is considered as the entry point to forensic nursing.
In a short period of time, forensic nursing history tells us that their usefulness in the society should be recognized especially now that the world is becoming more and more exposed to acts of delinquency.