Forensic Nurses Receiving Additional Training

(From Blanchard Valley Health System)

Blanchard Valley Health System has long been committed to helping survivors of violent crime receive quality and compassionate medical care. In the near future, the organization’s team of forensic nurses will receive additional training to better equip them in this role.

A forensic nurse is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at Blanchard Valley Hospital to examine patients who have experienced any type of violent crime, including child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence, assault, sexual assault, child sexual abuse, and human trafficking for sex or labor.

The nurses record what happened to the individual and document their injuries in the medical chart.

They always use a trauma-informed approach, said Michelle Stratton, RN, a forensic nurse and coordinator of the program.

“We are meeting these patients for the first time on one of the worst days of their lives,” she said. “We always keep this in mind, and our training includes an education in trauma-informed care. We must be careful not to retraumatize a person seeking help.”

The nurses also must recognize that the person may not process information very well immediately following a trauma.

”Their brain is still in fight-or-flight mode, so they may not be able to recall information given during the exam,” Stratton said. “So we also reach out several days later to talk about following up with their family doctor or a mental health professional, make sure they have everything they need and answer any questions that may have come up in the meantime.”

The program is funded through federal Victims of Crime Act grant funding filtered through the Ohio Attorney General’s office. BVHS has received this funding since 2016, but federal funding has significantly declined, Stratton said.

The Zonta Club of Findlay recently donated $6,000 from the proceeds of their Zonta Blingo event to the forensic nurse program.

Stratton said this would supplement the federal grant and pay for additional training. Forensic nurses receive ongoing training to ensure their knowledge is current with the latest medical advances.

Stratton said most rural communities do not have a comprehensive forensic nurse program like the one at BVHS. She said BVHS has a long history of commitment to this type of care. Two BVHS nurses were among the very first in the state to participate in then-Attorney General Betty Montgomery’s sexual assault nurse training in the 1990s.

Stratton, who has been a forensic nurse since 2010, said her team also regularly discusses self-care to ensure that they maintain their well-being amid handling sometimes very difficult information.

“It can be hard not to take it home with you,” she said. “At the same time, survivors have said this kind of care makes a difference. It’s important that survivors get the care they need during this time.”

For more information on the forensic nurse program, please click here.