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Unis collaborate on forensic course

Flinders University school of nursing and Johns Hopkins University in the US have teamed up to deliver an internationally recognised course in forensic healthcare.

Johns Hopkins’ Associate Professor Dan Sheridan said the online introductory course was the first to be offered anywhere in the world.

The global curriculum targets health professionals living in any region to provide them with best practice training in the field.

Sheridan said most nurses, doctors and paramedics had very little or no training to provide forensic healthcare.

“[Health professionals] are great at saving lives but in the process destroy evidence and fail to document their assessments in the medical record in a way that later can be used in court. This contributes to abusers getting way with their crimes,” he said.

The health profession and the legal system needed to work together to provide more holistic care to patients experiencing violence and abuse, Sheridan said.

Flinders University’s Associate Professor Linda Starr, who co-designed the postgraduate course, said many nurses did not feel equipped to deal with various medico-legal issues and training was absent from most undergraduate education. She said paramedics, accident and emergency nurses, right through to surgeons operating on a gunshot wound would be in a position to collect vital evidence in the process of caring for a patient.

In their frontline roles these health professionals would need to know how to collect, preserve and record evidence and to give witness statements, if necessary. Starr said one of the greatest opportunities of the course will be to support the fledgling field of forensic health in countries where the speciality is yet to get off the ground.

“In many countries there are no such roles as forensic nurses and in some countries [their roles] are very narrow.

She said all health professionals had the potential to be a forensic health practitioner.
Some of the legal issues explored include the trial process, legal liability, negligence, trespass and false improvement. Students will be encouraged to understand these concepts with reference to their own legal system. The course will be launched in Adelaide on August 24.

Linda Belardi

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