Exploring Forensic Nursing Ethics and Practice: Roles, Loyalties and Photodocumentation Practices
Ekroos, Rachell A
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University of Washington Abstract Exploring Forensic Nursing Ethics and Practice: Roles, Loyalties and Photodocumentation Practices Rachell A. Ekroos Chair of the Supervisory Committee: Associate Professor Sarah E. Shannon, PhD, RN Biobehavioral Nursing & Health Systems Forensic nurses find themselves at the intersection of healthcare and the law, yet there remains a dearth of research and normative articles addressing topics such as dual loyalty (e.g., to the patient and society; to nursing and the criminal justice system), professional values (e.g., conflicts of interests and conflicting interests), and role clarity. The purpose of this dissertation work was to contribute to the dialogue in these important areas. Exploring Forensic Nursing in the Context of Roles, Loyalties, and Interests: Role clarity is essential for forensic nurses to effectively respond to questions about their practice and to address incongruence between expectations of the ideal role and the enacted role. A focused literature review was conducted to explore role confusion and role conflict, dual loyalties and dual roles, and conflicts of interests and conflicting interests. This review revealed that use of the expression “we are nurses first” may be a symptom of role confusion and conflict for forensic nurses. However, ranking roles in this way may fuel incongruences between both internal and external expectations for what the role of a forensic nurse entails. Implications include the need to socialize new forensic nurses and to reconcile the aspects of one’s role that come with a unique specialty practice such as forensic nursing. Forensic Medical Examinations – Equity for Those Suspected and Accused of Violence: Forensic exams are conducted for both those who are identified as victims of violence and those who are accused of causing violence. However, there has been little attention on describing current practice, recommended standards or guidelines for collection of samples, or a dialogue about possible inequities for those accused or suspected in sexual assault cases versus those identified as victims. To examine this issue, a review of the scholarly literature, the grey (or lay) literature, and targeted articles was conducted. This review stimulated important questions. If a forensic nurse collects samples from a person, does that activity confer status as “a patient” thereby granting that person the rights generally considered part of a nurse-patient relationship? Should language regarding persons being seen by forensic nurses be consistently neutral and nonjudgmental, eliminating the labels of “victim”, “accused”, “perp”, “assailant”, etc.? Should those accused of violence receive the same rights and consideration around a forensic medical examination as those who are considered victims of violence? How should disparate care for those who are affected by violence be addressed? Photodocumentation Practices Among Forensic Nurses: Use of photographic documentation of physical observations has grown with the widespread availability of digital recording technologies (e.g., digital cameras, digital video cameras). In clinical forensic practices, photodocumentation is frequently used, but best practices have not been established resulting in wide variations in practices. To explore this gap, a 96-item, web-based survey was developed and completed by 563 forensic nurses, primarily in the U.S. and Canada, to describe current photodocumentation practices. Findings included that one-third of respondents reported experiencing a time when they decided not to collect any images, often for nonstandard reasons. While digital cameras were the primary device used, respondents also reported they would use their personal electronic devices (e.g., cell phones or tablets) if their usual equipment was unavailable. The security of the images, including how images were protected from unauthorized access and during transfer, was not known by approximately 10% of respondents. The survey also revealed, depending on age of patient population served, between 5% and 13% of nurses were not using photodocumentation during forensic medical examinations. Implications include the need for guidelines to address providers who are not practicing what appears to be an emerging professional consensus, determining competency in photodocumentation practices, and implications of maintaining competency in low-volume settings.
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