This Forensic Nurses Week, A Look Ahead

To wrap up Forensic Nurses Week, let’s talk about what the future holds for the profession…

We’re at this point in our profession where we can really enumerate some incredible collective accomplishments, including multiple national protocols, a significant body of research, evaluation tools–we’re young, but we’ve got quite a bit to show for our relatively brief existence. So what’s next for us? What I submit are less predictions and more considerations for your time and attention. If we make them happen, so much the better for us and our patients. My big three:

  1. Diversify funding. We have to move away from solely being funded by criminal justice resources and look at ways to cultivate healthcare dollars for our programs. To be clear, I love how supported we have been by the criminal justices agencies that have funded many of our programs and projects. But there’s a lot more we could do if we had broader support from healthcare agencies. Expanded practice; more research around healthcare outcomes for our patients; funded clinical preceptorships and even residencies.
  2. Attack attrition. The sheer number of nurses who never complete their clinical training, or join our programs but leave within the first year, is staggering. As things stand, we are not getting great return on our investment writ large. We need to evaluate the very specific reasons people bail and identify concrete solutions to minimize their impact. I’m pretty certain there’s a project here.
  3. Focus post-baccalaureate forensic nursing programs. Yes, I’m down with education for education’s sake. But most people don’t have the kind of expendable funds to simply go back to school because learning is awesome (although it is, and I would go get an MBA if it was free). There’s this enormous push to get forensic nurses to go back to school, but if you look at the curricula for many of the graduate forensic nursing programs (at least here in the US), I can’t identify the specific job people are being educated for. First off, we haven’t developed enough full-time roles for forensic nurses to allow people a legitimate chance to make a living in the field. And the bulk of the jobs specifically for forensic nurses out there don’t generally require a forensic nursing graduate degree. A practitioner degree, or an MPH or even an MBA? Sure. But not a masters in forensic nursing. So I think we need to look at a long-range plan for expanded forensic nursing roles at all levels of health care. And simultaneously, we need to rethink forensic nursing graduate curricula so that we are educating forensic nurses with greater purpose (and yes, I have some pretty specific ideas about this, so call me, schools of nursing–I will come consult for you).

I would love to hear where you think we’re headed in the next 5-10 years, so chat me up online, here on the site (or knowing you guys), via email. My point of view is obviously a very specific one.

Happy Forensic Nurses Week, everyone. Know that I really honor the diverse contributions you make to the field, the collegiality I so enjoy because of my interactions with you on FHO and in actual life, and the sheer determination you display in getting programs up and running and keeping them afloat–all in the name of providing great care to victims (and perpetrators) of violence. Kudos to all y’all.



3 replies on “This Forensic Nurses Week, A Look Ahead”

Thanks, Jen for reminding us to celebrate the accomplishments and encouraging us to strive to find ways to sustain the work we do. It is important that we find ways to bring healthcare support on board. It will take time and effort- and as you point out, some will become lost along the way- BUT- those battles are worth that effort and worth that time investment, as our patients and their families and ultimately our communities will be healthier because of it.

Hi Jen – great ideas and I am glad you wrote this. It should inspire everyone to think bigger picture! I am interested in finding out what hospitals have clinical forensic departments, and want to implement one here. Any suggestions for references/resources?

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