Nurses as Evidence Gatherers: "We'll Just Hold Your Pain Medication Until You Tell Us What Really Happened"

M. Katherine Maeve, Medical College of Georgia

In a society that is constantly encouraged to view all its "ills" in terms of the "criminal element," it is perhaps not surprising that we go to great lengths to develop new and innovative strategies to "get the bad guys." One such innovation is the co-optation of nurses as evidence gatherers, euphemistically termed forensic nursing. Initially, forensic nurses were sexual assault nurse examiners. In this role, and perhaps others, it could be argued that nursing's tradition of caring was focused upon the victims of crime, where the careful gathering of evidence by a competent and caring professional nurse could positively affect a victim's personal experience of the crime in terms of their own well being and the subsequent adjudication of the crime(s) against them. Currently, however, there is the growing idea that all nurses, in all contexts, should be educated about forensics and continually sustain an index of suspicion, thus being ever-ready to collect and preserve evidence. Health care may never be the same.

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Updated 05/20/2006