RCN member Michelle Gorman is passionate about allowing nurses in Scotland to work as forensic examiners, something they’re currently prevented from doing under Scottish law
Michelle, a qualified nurse for 15 years, works as an on-call support nurse for the only sexual assault referral centre in Scotland. It’s her job to assist the forensic medical examiner when dealing with somebody who’s been a victim of sexual assault or rape.
In England, forensic nurse examiners carry out sexual assault examinations, but under Scottish law nurses are limited to the role of assistant and are prevented from performing examinations themselves. This is because of a unique requirement in Scottish law which means there must be two separate sources of evidence for a criminal case, such as rape, before it can proceed to trial. This is called corroboration.
The reason nurses in Scotland cannot be forensic examiners is mainly because a doctor could refute the findings of the nurse. Therefore, this role is usually performed by a doctor or forensic medical examiner to avoid the evidence being dismissed, or not corroborated.
Michelle decided to train to become a forensic nurse examiner in England and self-funded her post-graduate certificate. Now, thanks to funding from the RCN Foundation, she is studying a post-graduate diploma in advanced forensic practice (Course details).
Michelle feels it’s time for the law to change to allow nurses in Scotland to be forensic examiners.
She says: “It’s a service I feel incredibly passionate about and at the moment it is not something we are able to offer 24/7 for people in Scotland who have been raped or sexually assaulted.
“Instead, when our referral centre is unavailable, either through staff shortage or it being in use for another case, victims may be examined in a police station, which does not provide the same level of privacy, anonymity, calmness and cleanliness.”
Jess Davidson, a committee member of the RCN’s Nursing in Criminal Justice Services Forum, is a senior clinical forensic charge nurse for NHS Lothian and part of a clinical group reviewing current practice in this area.
She says: “We are working to remove professional barriers to undertaking this work, but there needs to be an infrastructure in place to train nurses to become forensic examiners. It’s not just a simple case of ‘yes’ or ‘no’.
“There seems to be no reason why suitably qualified and experienced nurses can’t do this job, especially with precedent in the rest of the UK and other countries.”
There needs to be an infrastructure in place to train nurses to become forensic examiners
Do you work in criminal justice settings? Would you like to? Would you value the knowledge and support of nursing staff who specialise in this area? Why not join the RCN Nursing in Criminal Justice Services Forum?
Visit www.rcn.co.uk/forums to find out more.
To find out about the financial support available from the RCN Foundation visit www.rcnfoundation.
RCN BULLETIN JANUARY 2016
Word document: RCN article FNE