Death Investigations and the Role of the Forensic Nurse

Topics: Nursing, Medicine, Police Pages: 4 (1137 words) Published: December 5, 2013

Death Investigations and the Role of the Forensic Nurse

Death Investigations and the Role of the Forensic Nurse
"Above all, realize that nursing care doesn't have to stop because a patient has expired. We can do so much more for people who suffered questionable deaths by focusing on forensics. Nurses can help families gain closure and assist law enforcement with their investigations because we have cared enough to maintain the integrity of the evidence." (Erricksen, 2008, p. 43) This quote from Debbie Rice, RN, NREMT, an emergency nurse at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood, FL, could be used to help define the role of forensic nurses in death investigations. All nurses, first and foremost, must care for their patients. That caring does not end when the patient is dead, but can help the death investigator to the best job possible in assisting in investigating the cause and manner of death. DESCRIPTION AND RELEVANCE

Death investigations around the United States vary greatly, depending on the structure of the presiding Medical Examiner or Coroner’s office – if one exists for the area. The International Association of Forensic Nurses website states, “Every state/county has different needs and resources, and every state/county may run death investigations with a different approach. What matters is that every effort be made to ensure a thorough, accurate, and timely investigation. A faulty cause of death determination can significantly impact surviving family members, agencies responsible for planning public health policy, civil or criminal action, and even public safety.” (Schindell, 2006) The possibility of forensic investigations may begin in first aid situations, or in the emergency department. The nurse’s first duty is to provide immediate care to the patient, but the nurse must also be prepared to preserve evidence for possible criminal investigations. (Dean & Mulligan, 2009) This becomes mandatory in the...

References: Dean, R., & Mulligan, J. (2009, October 28). Providing first aid and assisting forensic investigations. Nursing Standard, 4(8), 35-39. Retrieved from
Erricksen, A. B. (2008, June). Forensic nursing: beyond the bedside. Rn, 71(6), 38-43.
Henry, T. (2009, April 29). Characteristics of sex-related homicides in Alaska. Journal of Forensic Nursing, 6(2), 57-65. doi:10.1111/j.1939-3938.2010.01069.x
McDonough, E. T. (2013). Death Investigations. In R. M. Hammer, B. Moynihan, & E. M. Pagliaro, Forensic nursing: a handbook for practice (2nd ed., pp. 215-258). Retrieved from
Schindell, J. (2006). The forensic nurse as death investigator. Retrieved from
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