Bon Secours Richmond Program

Although forensic nursing was not officially recognized by the American Nurses Association until 1995, St. Mary’s Hospital (SMH) – following a long-standing tradition of innovation – started a Forensic Nurse Examiner program two years earlier in 1993, because three exceptional nurses recognized the community need to provide specialized care for sexual assault patients.

At that time, nurses and physicians received little to no training in the care of this vulnerable and underserved population. Furthermore, these already emotionally traumatized victims had to wait in the ER for hours before ever being seen and received no counseling referrals or other support during what had to be the worst time in their lives.

The St. Mary’s nurses, however, decided to change that. They attended a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training program, and less than a few hours after the training ended, one of the nurses was called to put her new skills to work in the ER. The team performed 42 examinations in the first year. Once local law enforcement learned of our specially trained nurses who could collect evidence and would testify in court, they started bringing more victims to St. Mary’s.

Providing a Regional Resource of Clinical Experts: Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Services

Today, Bon Secours Richmond is the only health care system in this region of 1+ million residents with a full-time dedicated staff of forensic nurse examiners. Currently we have 12 forensic nurse examiners and at least one is on-duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Traditionally, forensic nursing programs have been operated and staffed using an “on-call or as needed” approach. Staff members respond to calls for service from home, and in some instances create a delayed response time. In the past, our program was also staffed using primarily “as needed” positions with some full-time forensic nurse positions. In November 2013, a new staffing model was approved and implemented. Our program is now staffed with twelve fully dedicated forensic nurse positions, all of which are full-time. The forensic department has 24-hour coverage and is one of the few programs in Virginia to be staffed in this manner.

Our team receives calls for service for approximately 200 patients per month for cases involving pediatric and adult sexual assault, pediatric and adult physical assault, domestic and elder abuse, and human trafficking. More than half of all sexual assault patients are under the age of 18.

Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Services is also unique in that it serves over 20 jurisdictions, more than any other program in Virginia and one of the largest in the country. Many of the hospitals in these outlying jurisdictions (some as far as two hours away) don’t have forensic nursing services and thus rely on Bon Secours Richmond to provide them.

All of our forensic nurses have their BSN or higher degrees and are both SANE-A and SANE-P certified (Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Adult or Pediatric. Very few forensic programs, especially those based in hospital Emergency Departments, have the skill set to take care of children. The Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Services is extremely unique because of the very precise set of skills that these nurses bring to the bedside of children who have undergone the most traumatic experience possible.

The program is headquartered in a secure suite on St. Mary’s campus that operates as a clinic for patients, the location for sexual assault examinations, and offices for the program staff. The space includes a children’s interview room; an exam room, a waiting room/reception area, and two offices. Its location is intentionally kept low-key and under a higher-level security for the safety and protection of our staff and patients.

Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Services relies on financial support from the community. To learn more, please visit the “Make a Gift” page.