Forensic Nurses Capture Unseen Evidence with New Photo System
A new photo system is helping Cleveland Clinic forensic nurses more thoroughly examine victims of violence and capture photographic evidence unseen by the naked eye.
Forensic nurses will attest that some of the most telling physical evidence on a victim of violent crime isn’t always visible. Bruising on the neck of a strangulation victim may not intensify until days after their visit to an Emergency Department. Dried semen may be hard to spot on the body or clothing of a sexual assault victim.
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A new forensic photodocumentation system is changing that. Thanks to a Victims of Crime Act grant through the State of Ohio, Cleveland Clinic Akron General, Fairview and Hillcrest hospitals have installed this new photo system.
According to James Bryant, DNP, RN, CEN, Associate Chief Nursing Officer of Emergency Services at Cleveland Clinic, the system will help Cleveland Clinic’s approximately 80 forensic nurses more thoroughly examine victims and capture photographic evidence not always apparent to the naked eye.
The system includes:
“Forensic nurses are specially trained to care for patients who are survivors of sexual assault, child abuse, elder abuse and other violent crimes, such as gunshots and stabbings,” says Dr. Bryant. “They manage highly emotional situations and typically are the initial support for victims, providing counsel and reassurance.”
In addition to conducting sensitive medical exams and photodocumenting evidence, Cleveland Clinic forensic nurses:
While forensic nurses are on call 24/7 in ED forensic exam rooms, many work outside the ED — in pediatrics, obstetrics or geriatrics, including inpatient areas — helping victims document their story as they seek closure and begin to move beyond the pain of the event.
Cleveland Clinic forensic nurses received extensive training before beginning to use the new system in June 2017.
“Before installing this new technology, nurses used regular cameras,” Dr. Bryant says. “Not only could they not capture some of the harder-to-see evidence, they had to store and distribute images by CD. Burning CDs took an extra step, and mailing them took extra time. There was always a chance that images could get lost.”
The new high-tech photographic capabilities and storage and distribution safeguards alleviate those concerns.
“This technology is the gold standard in forensic nursing,” Dr. Bryant says. “We anticipate it will help further our forensic program and continue our success with helping prosecute crimes and secure justice for victims.”