The Community Need

Physical and sexual abuse is a serious public health concern in the Central Virginia region. In 2010, Virginia’s Sexual Violence Service Providers served at least 7,026 women, children and men. In the same year, Virginia’s Domestic Violence Service Providers provided advocacy services to 18,468 women, men and children. Hotline calls for domestic and sexual abuse services topped 61,860. However, victims of violence fear being stigmatized or condemned by society and are thus less likely to report these crimes; therefore, the actual incidence rates of sexual and physical assaults are likely to be much higher. In addition, the stresses of a recessionary economy increase the levels of poverty, violence and crime.

Forensic nurse examiners have stepped up to become leaders in healthcare’s response to violence.  However, despite the interest sparked by television shows like “CSI,” forensic nursing programs face shortages. The reasons are simple. The hours put in by forensic nurse examiners can be long, the burnout rate is high, and the time it takes to train a forensic nurse makes it difficult to fill an open position. Furthermore, this situation is compounded by an overall shortage of nurses, and most medical and nursing schools do not teach forensic principles, because while in training, few physicians or nurses have the opportunity to complete a sufficient number of these cases to develop or maintain proficiency in evidence collection. Forensic nursing must be taught on the job to experienced nurses. In Virginia, a forensic nurse examiner must already be a registered nurse in good standing and undergo training that could take one to three years to complete, depending on the chosen field of expertise.

The World Health Organization notes that documentation by trained forensic nurse examiners can increase the likelihood that a perpetrator will be arrested, charged and convicted. Anecdotal evidence from healthcare providers, law enforcement officials, and crisis center advocates from around the Commonwealth suggests continued inconsistency in access to trained medical personnel and emergency departments equipped to conduct forensic examinations, often results in delays in medical care and evidence collection, poorer quality evidence, and increased trauma to the patient.

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For more information or to make a gift, please contact:

Angie Dempsey
Senior Development Officer
Bon Secours Richmond Health Care Foundation
5008 Monument Avenue, 2nd Floor
Richmond, VA 23230