By Laura Raines, Pulse editor
For the first time, the International Association of Forensic Nurses will hold its annual scientific assembly in Atlanta this month.
“Members of our Georgia chapter are excited,” said Denise Atkinson, RN, SANE-A, CMI-III, and president of the IAFN’s Georgia chapter.
“Forensic nurses rarely work together, so this is also a chance for them to learn the latest in the field, to share best practices and to network.”
Members of the Georgia chapter will arrive early to welcome more than 600 forensic nurses to the event.
“We’re going to be wearing some kind of peach badges, have a table to answer questions and organize a buddy system to take out-of-towners to dinner if they are there alone,” said Joanie Jackson, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, a forensic nurse at Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton.
Jackson wears several hats at work. She has set up a sexual assault exam room in the emergency department and has sent ER nurses for SANE training. She also chairs the patient safety team, has helped to revise the hospital’s restraint and fall policies, and facilitates the ethics committee.
At the conference, Jackson will present a paper, “Patient Safety: A New Model and a New Career,” with Susan Patton, an associate professor of nursing at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis.
“I had to develop my own role as a clinical forensic nurse at Hamilton Medical, and that’s what is happening all over,” Jackson said. “We keep pushing the parameters of what we do with our training.”
They work in hospitals, clinics, rape crisis centers, correctional institutes and with law enforcement agencies.
“They’re very few full-time forensic nurses,” Atkinson said. “SANEs often work in their forensic capacity in addition to their normal nursing jobs.”
Jackson began performing sexual abuse exams when she was a pediatric nurse because no one else in her department wanted to go to court.
“Law enforcement departments have bought into SANE training, because they’ve seen it improve the level of care to victims and [help] increase the rate of successful prosecutions,” Jackson said.
Atkinson thinks the conference will help raise awareness about forensic nursing in Georgia.
“That’s good, because the need is as great as ever,” she said. “Our chapter has been trying to provide more training. When we find 10 nurses that want to do this in a geographic location, our members will take the training to them.”