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What is forensic nursing?

Nursing specialities are increasingly being recognised with individual training programs and diplomas – one such field is forensic nursing.

The word forensic brings to mind American procedurals like Law and Order or CSI, but the word forensic simply means ‘related to law’. The roots of forensic practice relate to finding the causes of death, however the term is becoming increasingly associated with living forensics.

The origins of forensic nursing can be traced to the US – where the occupation is well established – and Dr Harry McNamara who described living forensics as “the application of forensic medicine to trauma cases where forensic intervention was required to investigate injuries caused either intentionally or accidentally”. Forensic nursing uses these skills combined with clinical nursing skills.

In the US, nurses fill various forensic roles, such as nurse death investigators, nurse coroners, sexual assault nurse examiners, correctional nurses, forensic psychiatric nurses and legal nurse consultants.

Forensic nursing is a small but growing speciality here in Australia and Nursing Review spoke with its foremost proponent, Associate Professor Linda Starr, an expert in the field of nursing and the law from the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Flinders University in South Australia.

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