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Canadian Forensic Nurses Association (CFNA)

Forensic nursing: an evolving nursing specialty

Forensic nursing is a bridge between medicine and the legal system. It’s a relatively new, multi-faceted and evolving nursing specialty with nurses working in emergency rooms, correctional institutions, critical care units and other areas where forensic expertise is required. Forensic nurses specialize in sexual assault examinations (including intimate partner violence), child maltreatment, domestic violence and disasters.

Forensic nurses see violence as a health-care issue that is preventable, with forensic nurses playing a vital role in reducing the consequences of violence. Registered psychiatric nurses are also trained to be sexual assault examiners.

Kelly Branchi, RN
President, Canadian Forensic Nurses Association

Kelly Branchi, president of the Canadian Forensic Nurses Association (CFNA), spoke about her specialty and association to the members of the Canadian Network of Nursing Specialties at the February quarterly meeting. Kelly is an ER nurse with a background in critical care and has been a forensic nurse for 11 years.

CFNA was formed in 2006 to address Canada’s forensic nursing issues and to provide networking opportunities for forensic nurses nationally and internationally. The association joined the specialty network in 2007 and currently has 141 members consisting of registered nurses, registered psychiatric nurses, death investigators, physicians, corrections officials and legal consultants.

CFNA’s priorities for 2018 are creating national practice standards, increasing CFNA’s membership and improving education for nurses on the basics of forensic nursing.

One of CFNA’s challenges is the lack of awareness about forensic nursing. To increase understanding and visibility, CFNA attends various events at different universities — such as the British Columbia Institute of Technology and the University of British Columbia — to talk to nursing students about the forensic specialty and the importance of having a national association. There are several forensic nursing courses and programs being offered across Canada.

CFNA is involved at the international level with the International Association of Forensic Nurses, working in partnership to promote forensic nursing standards and the specialty with governments, industry and the public. CFNA board members also attend national and international conferences and other events to network with nurses and students. It is Kelly’s hope that these types of events will encourage nurses and students to join the association and help further evolve forensic nursing.

As well, CFNA provides educational opportunities by hosting six to eight webinars each year. CFNA is proud to offer a professional development assistance program that awards a $500 grant each year to help a forensic nurse gain more knowledge and training. The nurse that receives the grant would in turn present a webinar on what was learned.

Here are the webinar topics for 2018:

  • January 23: Forensic Examination of the Suspect: Making the Case for the Expertise of the Forensic Nurse
  • February 28: Fisting: What is it and Why Have a High Index of Suspicion
  • March 29: Sexual Assault Injury Update
  • April (Date TBD): Forensic Nurse Examiner Interactive Case Review: Challenging Cases
  • September (Date TBD): The Forensic Nurse in the Criminal Justice System

If you are interested in learning more about forensic nursing, you can contact Kelly at kbranchi@shaw.ca. If you are interested in joining the association, check out the member benefits and sign up.