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Caring for the forensic population: recognizing the educational needs of emergency department nurses and physicians

Henderson, Elizabeth MSN, MS, RN1; Harada, Nahoko ANP2; Amar, Angela PhD, RN, FAAN3

doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2012.01144.x
Original Articles

The Emergency Department (ED) is a point of contact for victims of violence after an act of criminal activity has occurred. Hence, ED clinicians are in a key position to have a significant impact on both the medical and legal outcomes of the forensic patient population. The purpose of this study was to describe and compare forensic knowledge, practice, and experiences of ED nurses and physicians. Specific aims were to (1) describe experiences of nurses and physicians related to forensic practice; (2) compare clinical forensic knowledge and experience between nurses and physicians; and (3) describe forensic learning needs. This descriptive, correlational study utilized a survey questionnaire completed by 134 ED nurses and physicians. Results of the survey revealed no significant differences in the education, knowledge, and confidence with forensic patients between ED nurses and physicians. However, just over half of the sample reported feeling confident in managing forensic patients indicating a need for increased forensic education. Practice implications indicate that forensic education is needed and desired among ED nurses and physicians within the clinical setting. Further studies must be done to gain a more in depth understanding of existing forensic practices and protocols to elevate the level of care received by forensic patients within the ED setting.

1 Doctoral Student, William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

2 Doctoral Candidate, William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

3 Associate Professor, William F. Connell School of Nursing at Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA

Correspondence Elizabeth Henderson, MSN, MS, RN, Boston College,140 Commonwealth Ave, Chestnut Hill, MA 02467. Tel: 617 552 4928; E‐mail:

Received: January 23, 2012; accepted: April 23, 2012

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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