Ever Considered Forensic Nursing?

Ever Considered Forensic Nursing?

Ryan Myers / Beaumont Enterprise

April 20, 2009

A young woman with multiple stab wounds arrives at a Beaumont hospital.

As trauma surgeons begin to treat her injuries, a specialized nurse photographs the gashes.

She slips between the busy doctors, scraping underneath the woman’s fingernails, noting hand wounds typical in fighting off an attack with a knife.

Until recently , Southeast Texas patients only got this kind of treatment if they were sexual assault victims. But following a national trend, a team of forensic nurses at Beaumont’s Christus St. Elizabeth Hospital are using their special skills to collect evidence from a variety of violent crime victims.

“Medical care always comes first, but we can work to prevent forensic evidence from being lost during treatment,” said Angela Dillahunty, coordinator of the Christus St. Elizabeth forensic nursing program, formerly the sexual assault nurse examiner program.

These patients can be victims of violent crime, elder abuse or domestic violence, but the expanded program’s largest numbers are victims of child abuse.

“We haven’t always done the best job that we can in identifying and documenting child abuse as early as we can so that there can be intervention before the abuse becomes worse,” Dillahunty said. “But we’re learning to use these medical-forensic resources we’ve developed for sexual assault with other patients who may have forensic needs.”

Still, of about 200 patients the program’s four certified nurses see each year, about 90 percent are sexual assault victims.

But sexual assault victims can be child abuse victims, too.

A 13-year-old girl saw Dillahunty after telling a teacher that her father was having sex with her.

“We did an ultrasound and she was eight months pregnant,” Dillahunty said. "When I told her she was pregnant, the first thing she said was “Maybe somebody will believe me now.’”

Without evidence, a little girl’s word – or anyone’s – goes only so far.

  • Nana_and_grandkids_minus_noah_max50


    over 7 years ago


    I would love forensic nursing! maybe I'll look into it.

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    Account Removed

    over 7 years ago

    I was surprised to learn that Lakes Crossing (I think that is the name of the place) here in NV has open units. We send them there from the jail often. I am by far safer in the jail than I was when I worked for the state hospital here.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 7 years ago


    I recently had the oppotuniny to work as a travel psychiatric forensic nurse in an admission unit at Central State Hospital located in Petersburg VA. The experience was very challenging. The nurse was expected to function as nurse AND security to this population of patients who were charged with crimes (usually violent) and were there primarily because their behaviors could not be managed in the community jails. Unlike environments of jails and prisons, these patients were not confined to locked rooms, but were allowed to freely move about the unit with the technicians and nurses. Many healthcare workers were injured during my assignment there, because it is not safe. I strongly urge any nurse to avoid this forensic setting if given opportunity for employment there. This does not say all forensic nursing jobs are unsafe.

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