Tell us about your experience in Forensic Nursing.The majority of my experience as a forensic RN has been as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Many facilities utilize the role of a SANE combined with a generalist forensic RN role. This includes providing care, evidence collection, and documentation (photographs, diagrams, and narrative) for any forensic patient. Forensic patients seek healthcare which is, or will be, related to a legal proceeding. Common examples include patients who experience domestic violence, child or elder abuse/neglect, sexual assault/perpetration. Other infrequent examples in my experience include photo-documentation of a shark bite, and photo-documentation of a deceased motor vehicle collision victim (MVC) where the airbag failed to deploy. In addition to clinical practice roles, I also have experience as a legal nurse consultant. Most of my work with attorneys involved extensive record review and writing reports. The SANE role includes providing a physical examination, collection of evidence, and testifying in court as an expert and/or fact witness. In 2010, I was approached by the Massachusetts Board of Nursing and asked to create a presentation that details when cardio-pulmonary resuscitation should and should not be done.
What is your educational background, what certifications do you have relevant to your program?In 1985, I graduated with a BS in Nursing from Texas Woman's University. During the 1990's I became a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), and in 2000, was the third RN certified in Texas as a SANE for both children and adults. In 2002, I relocated to Massachusetts to pursue a Master of Science in Forensic Nursing from Fitchburg State, graduating in 2006. Recently, (February 2017), I completed a PhD in Nursing at the University of Massachusetts in Lowell, with a focus on health promotion and adolescent dating violence.
Where are Fitchburg State forensic nursing students employed? What career opportunities are available to forensic nurses?
Many of our graduates continue to expand on and grow the roles they had before graduating from this program; such as becoming a manager or director of a SANE program with which they have a history. Several nurses have gone on to work at a medical examiner’s office and some have worked with attorneys recreating and assisting with death scene investigations. I know a graduate who works as part of the Child Protection Team at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester and another graduate recently accepted a new position as program developer at Canada's Regina University for its new emergency advanced care certificate program.
What advice do you normally provide to prospective students?
I tell students that the path is unique to each person and it will probably have many unforeseen twists and turns. Despite the unexpected, I have never had any regrets about furthering my education. In my personal experience, education opened doors I didn’t know existed. Yes, I have student loans to pay, and no, I don’t make an exorbitant amount of money, but I love what I do.
What do you love about Fitchburg State and/or why would you recommend Fitchburg State to another nurse?
This is one of the original forensic nursing programs in the US and it's one of the most affordable. The instructors are involved and caring professors and several are graduates of the program.
Tell us about classes you teach?
I personally suggest students begin with the NURS 8000, Introduction to Forensic Nursing. It’s a good way to become familiar with the format of discussion board questions which are used for class participation assessment and learning about the various forensic nursing roles and possibilities. I'd also like to point out that although most students avoid taking any theory class, they should be aware that this theory class applies theories to forensic patients - most students find this much more mentally stimulating than they ever expected!
Want to learn more about our program? Attend the October 17 webinar.