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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 31  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 141-142

Forensic nursing: An evolving specialty

Department of Forensic Medicine, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal, Manipur, India

Date of Web Publication17-Aug-2017

Correspondence Address:
Thounaojam Meera
Department of Forensic Medicine, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal, Manipur
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jms.jms_43_17

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How to cite this article:
Meera T, Singh KP. Forensic nursing: An evolving specialty. J Med Soc 2017;31:141-2

How to cite this URL:
Meera T, Singh KP. Forensic nursing: An evolving specialty. J Med Soc [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Jan 18];31:141-2. Available from:

The help of a doctor is usually sought by the police in various forms of crime investigation, namely, homicide, suicide, assault, sexual offences, accidents, poisoning, etc. It is also a known fact that victims of violence and abuse require care from health professionals who are trained to treat the trauma associated with the wrong that has been done to them – be it sexual, violence, neglect, or intentional injury.[1] Forensic nursing is one of the recent forms of forensic science, and it is the application of forensic science, combined with clinical nursing practice in the scientific investigation of death and injury resulting from criminal activity and accidents. The role of a nurse in medicolegal cases has been recognized since the mid-1970s when Dr. John Butt, the Chief Medical Examiner, Alberta, Canada, first established the role of a forensic nurse examiner in death investigations, representing the forensic pathologist at the scene of crime. Later, forensic nursing started as a specialty in the United States and then to various parts of the world like Sweden, South Africa, Japan, Singapore, and Malaysia. In this regard, Virginia A. Lynch, a forensic clinical nurse specialist, is recognized as the founder of forensic nursing as a formal discipline in the United States and all across the world.[2]

A forensic nurse is a nurse who provides specialized care for patients who are victims and/or perpetrators in medicolegal cases. Forensic nurses can play an important role in bridging the gap between the law and medicine. Nurses trained in this field can document injuries, collect biological fluids, and preserve clothing with evidence of assault. In medicolegal practice, it is not uncommon for some significant evidence in poisoning cases, namely, gastric aspirate, vomitus, urine sample, soiled cloth, etc., to be discarded in emergency departments. Trained forensic nurses are aware of the importance of these evidences, and they may help in collection, preservation, and maintenance of the chain of custody of these samples.

Cases of sexual violence are on the rise, and a tremendous amount of physical and psychological trauma are suffered by the victims of such heinous crimes. A female forensic nurse can readily establish a rapport with these victims of sexual violence. At the same time, these nurses are qualified in providing sexual assault evaluations and victim management. They provide services to attending doctor, to individual clients, give counseling to victims and relatives, as well as provide expert court testimony.[3]

In the field of death investigation both at the crime scene and during postmortem examination, forensic nurses can also play an important role. In the mortuary, they may help in receiving dead bodies, police papers as well as in maintenance of records and management of legal formalities, recording of the condition of the body, etc. A forensic nurse may also serve as a forensic pathology associate during dissection as well as in the collection of biological samples and trace evidences.[2] In present times, “death” has become a respectable field of inquiry, demanding answers to satisfy the public need, and demand to determine the cause and manner of death. Nurses can bring empathy and compassion as well as excellent observation, clinical, and communications skills to death investigation.[4]

On the other hand, forensic nurses may play a significant role in dealing with cases involving mental illness, especially when such people become involved in criminal cases or when criminals are feigning mental illness. They can provide a thorough forensic evaluation while observing for specific symptoms related to such a case. Moreover, crime victims face a higher risk of posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, suicide, and medical complications than other patients; forensic nurses improve both legal outcomes and quality of life for these patients.[5]

Interestingly, according to the American Forensic Association, the most important subspecialty of forensic nursing is sexual assault followed by other subspecialties such as death investigation, medicolegal consulting, and forensic psychiatric nursing.[1] Research findings on the effectiveness of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs suggest various improvements in each and every step in care of victim of sexual assault.[3] Further, battered women, abused children, and the neglected elders will be more comfortable in explaining the circumstances of injury to female forensic nurses as compared to police personnel.[6]

In the present world, several new specialties are developing in various scientific fields. In nursing sciences, new areas of practice such as pediatric nursing, psychiatric nursing, and geriatric nursing have come up. The specialty of forensic nursing is a comparatively new entity in India. It was first introduced to a few select institutes and agencies in our country in the year 2003, and good response was emanated from this prolog in New Delhi, Punjab, and some other places in India.[6]

To conclude, forensic nursing is an evolving specialty that has undergone substantive development in recent years. Unfortunately, in this part of India, most of the health-care professionals are not even aware of the existence of such a specialty. Even though efforts are still on, forensic nursing is yet to find a proper place in the nursing curriculum manuals in India.

  References Top

What is Forensic Nursing? Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Mar 24].  Back to cited text no. 1
Gorea RK. Development of forensic nursing in India step by step. J Indian Acad Forensic Med 2005;24:207-8.  Back to cited text no. 2
Dash SK, Patel S, Chavali K. Forensic nursing – Global scenario and Indian perspective. J Forensic Leg Med 2016;42:88-91.  Back to cited text no. 3
Lynch VA. Forensic nursing. Diversity in education and practice. J Psychosoc Nurs Ment Health Serv 1993;31:7-14.  Back to cited text no. 4
Esposito L. How Forensic Nurses Help Assault Survivors. U.S. News and World Report. Available from: [Last accessed on 2017 Mar 21].  Back to cited text no. 5
Gorea RK, Lynch VA. Forensic nursing – A boon to the society. J Punjab Acad Forensic Med Toxicol 2003;3:32-6.  Back to cited text no. 6


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