Groundbreaking course will train nurses to reduce trauma when gathering evidence from rape victims

A groundbreaking course at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh is to train nurses to gather forensic evidence in rape investigations.

Picture: Mike Pennington
Picture: Mike Pennington

The one year part-time forensic nursing course will be the first of its kind in Scotland, and will offer a unique blend of forensic work and person-centred care.

It will be delivered in partnership with NHS Lothian, the Scottish judiciary, Police Scotland and The UK Association of Forensic Nurses

The aim is for the care-focused approach is to limit the additional trauma caused to survivors of rape or sexual assault by a forensic examination.

The advanced forensic practitioners qualified by the postgraduate course will, as registered nurses, be able to carry out forensic examinations and gather evidence to support criminal investigations and court cases, documenting and interpreting any injuries.

They will also look after the health and wellbeing of the individual, and respect their rights, personhood and dignity.

The course will be led by Jessica Davidson, Senior Clinical Forensic Charge Nurse with the South East Scotland Police Custody and Forensic Examination Service at NHS Lothian.

She said: “Undertaking a forensic examination in sexual assault and rape cases requires the examiner to treat each person as an individual and take responsibility for that episode of care from start to finish.

"What is unique about this role is that the examination involves documenting and interpreting any injuries that the individual may have sustained at the time of the incident.”

She added: “The examination team’s work also involves protecting the forensic integrity of the person, the treatment room and the case. They use hard science, clinical observation and the law to take responsibility for the case itself, as well as the individual.

"Anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, or hurt by crime, experiences trauma. It is therefore important that the examiner works to minimise the potential for further trauma and begin the process of supporting recovery.”

Twenty places on the Postgraduate Certificate in Person-Centred Practice: Advanced Forensic Practice will be funded by the Scottish Government.

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said: “The Scottish Government is proud to develop the role of nurse sexual offence examiners in Scotland and to allocate funding for priority places on the new postgraduate qualification course at Queen Margaret University.

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"Having access to this qualification in Scotland supports our ambition to enhance the patient experience through the provision of high quality, person-centred and trauma informed care.”

Professor Brendan McCormack, Head of the Division of Nursing at QMU said: “The Scottish Government has been pivotal in enabling this course to come to fruition and we are extremely proud to be involved in this developing area of person centred nursing.

"The course also aims to develop nurses with leadership skills so they can direct and advance this important area of work in Scotland. This will help to ensure better support and health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals who have experienced rape or sexual assault.

“Our Advanced Forensic Practice course will be delivered in partnership with NHS Lothian, the Scottish judiciary, Police Scotland and The UK Association of Forensic Nurses (UKAFN). This means we will have the best experts in Scotland to guide our students through this exciting learning experience.”

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