Community’s Generosity Helps
Forensic Nurses Serve Abuse Victims

When a victim of sexual or physical abuse completes an exam, she is given clean clothes so her soiled clothing can be used for evidence. When a child lacks the words to explain what happened, he is given a stuffed animal, pillow and crayons to help. When patients arrive with no loved ones, they can rely on trained volunteers in moments of need.

Bonnie Price, Clinical Coordinator of Forensic Nurse Examiners (right),
shows the examination room to Richmond Academy Medicine Alliance members
Pat Merson, Bonnie Davis and Holly Garnet during the open house in August.

These are just a few ways that community support makes a difference for the St. Mary’s Hospital Forensic Nurse Examiners Unit. The unit’s nurses stand by 24 hours a day to treat victims of sexual and physical abuse. Last year, they cared for more than 700 patients from more than 20 localities. They also train their peers across the region in this advanced practice nursing specialty.

Forensic Nurse Examiners

 

Forensic Nurse Examiner
Shirley Shaneen, PRN,
Stacie Vecchietti with Safe Harbor (left)
and Richmond Police Detective
Marshall M. Young attended
the open house of the new location for
St. Mary’s Hospital
Forensic Nurse Examiners Unit.

 

A generous donation of $24,000 from the St. Mary’s Volunteer Auxiliary enabled the nurses to move to a new, larger space earlier this summer.  Before this gift, the nurses worked in a small, crowded office that made their challenging work even more difficult.  Families couldn’t wait during their loved ones’ examinations because there was no space. Patients had to traverse through the hallways to use the restroom. Nurses had to interview the fragile patients in the small physical exam room.

“It was a blessing,” said Bonnie Price, Clinical Coordinator of Forensic Nurse Examiners, of the $24,000 gift, which helps pay the rent. The nurses recently moved the unit to the new space, which now includes a special pediatric room.  “Our new place has a vibe of peace and safety,” she said.

forensic nurse clothes

 

 

Forensic Nurse Examiner
Betsy Martin RN, BSN, SANE-A (left)
shows Joan Burton
the clothing kits assault victims receive.

The kits contain a t-shirt, pants
and personal care items for victims
to use if they have to leave their clothing
for investigators to recover evidence.

 

 

The unit’s many supporters include the Board of Women’s Health, the Richmond Academy of Medicine Alliance, Operation Fuzzy and many individual volunteers.

The impact of the nurses’ tireless work extends far beyond the patients, said Toni M. Randall, a former defense attorney who now prosecutes violent crimes for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Richmond. In both roles, she has relied on the reports from the nurses.

“Forensic nurses cannot have an agenda. They must be objective fact finders,” said Randall.  “They are the best in the area. Their training, preparation and the quality of their work help me do my job better.”