Forensic nurses play a critical role in helping victims of domestic abuse, human trafficking and sexual assault, thus making the specialization of the fastest-growing in nursing. Forensic nurses, registered nurses with specialized training to document evidence and patient accounts of abuse, and testify in court if necessary, are being celebrated this week as part of Forensic Nurses Week.
But despite the comfort these professionals offer patients and the value they provide hospitals, the forensic nursing profession may be endangered by a lack of people willing to do the job and a low perceived need for hospitals to hire them, according to an article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
For starters, working closely with victims of trauma can be a tough sell. "The people that we deal with, the cases that we deal with, they can kind of eat at your soul," Kristi Jarvis, a forensic nurse at Minnesota's Regions Hospital and Hennepin County Medical Center, told the newspaper. "You kind of see the worst of people, and sometimes you go home thinking, 'What is wrong with this world?' "
These types of crimes are so difficult that the victims themselves often don't report them, thus making it appear on paper that hospitals needn't fit forensic nursing into their budgets, according to the article. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) estimates that fewer than 10 percent of hospitals have a full-time forensic nurse on staff.
But if hospitals hired forensic nurses more widely, more victims could begin to come forward, said IAFN Chief Executive Officer Carey Goryl. "Victims are already reluctant to report sexual assault," Goryl said. "Forensic nurses create a safe environment for them to do that."
With all these factors in mind, jobs for forensic nurses may not be as numerous as for nursing in general. Experts from Forensics Colleges, however, predict that opportunities for those who pursue the career path will continue to be robust.