1. Peternelj-Taylor, Cindy MSc, BScN, RN, DF-IAFN
  2. Editor-in-Chief

Article Content

This issue of the Journal of Forensic Nursing serendipitously represents the diversity of forensic nursing globally. I say serendipitously, as it was not our intention as an Editorial Board to feature a special issue on forensic nursing from an international perspective. Yet, it may well be exactly what this issue has turned out to be-an issue representing the diversity and complexity of contemporary forensic nursing-globally. The pages that follow showcase the work of authors from Canada, the United States, Finland, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Ireland, and India. It is important to note that their work is featured not because their contributions represent an international perspective, rather, because their perspectives represent continuing contributions to forensic nursing. Regardless of where we are situated in the world, we likely are all guilty of being a little insular in the way we give voice to the issues that we face or the lenses with which we choose to view our research and practice, which ultimately can cloud our ability to see beyond our own borders. By broadening our horizons, we realize how much there is to learn, individually and collectively, as we embrace challenges and opportunities for ongoing professional development, define the parameters of forensic nursing science, and clarify forensic nursing roles and responsibilities. After all, the Journal of Forensic Nursing is the official journal of the International Association of Forensic Nurses.


Global Encounters

The first paper of this issue focuses on occupational injury and fatality investigations, an expanded role for forensic nursing. Colin Harris, a forensic nurse and an occupational accident investigator in Canada, illustrates the importance of forensic nursing science to workplace investigations. Although the forensic evaluation of wounds and injuries is clearly within the domain of nurses working in death investigations, the application of this knowledge to the examination of workplace fatalities and serious injuries is relatively new. And although laws, acts, and safety regulations will vary from one jurisdiction to the next, there is much to be learned from Harris about clinical forensic nursing practice.


In the next article, Ginette Ferszt and Joyce Hickey explore the experiences of forensic nurse researchers in the United States (including one Canadian) who have successfully conducted research in correctional settings. Incarcerated populations present with significant acute and chronic health challenges while incarcerated, which culminate into public health issues upon release. Correctional environments, however, have attracted few nurse researchers although a plethora of research opportunities exists. As the participants noted, the importance of this work needs to be clearly articulated, as funding sources and ethics committees often fail to see the relevance of research in correctional facilities. Embracing a research agenda with incarcerated populations will provide new insights into forensic nursing practice regardless of one's country or origin.


Patient safety culture within two state-run forensic hospitals in Finland is the focus of the third paper by Anssi Kuosmanen, Jari Tiihonen, Eila Repo-Tiihonen, Markku Eronen, and Hannele Turunen. According to the authors, safety culture refers to the way in which patient safety is regarded and implemented within an organization, including the structures and procedures that support it. This study is particularly noteworthy when one considers the vulnerability of forensic mental health patients whose involuntary status, legal disposition, and treatment challenges place them at risk for custodial care. It would be interesting to see this study replicated in forensic mental health facilities in other countries, as safety behaviors are influenced in part by prevailing cultural norms, organizational contexts, and dominant work group norms.


Katherine Clark's study also takes place in a forensic mental health setting and focuses on the needs of staff working with children and adolescents in secure forensic care in the United Kingdom. Youth who come into conflict with the law are a vastly underserved population with greater-than-average healthcare needs. The psychological impact of working with this population within a secure setting can be immense, and negotiating relationships with clients, colleagues, and management can be particularly challenging.


The focus of the fifth paper by Agneta Schroder, Joakim Agrim, and Lars-Olov Lundvist of Sweden is twofold: (1) to evaluate the psychometric properties and dimensionality of the Quality in Psychiatric Care-Forensic In-Patient instrument (generated from an earlier study assessing patients' perspectives of quality of care); and (2) to describe the quality of psychiatric care as reported by forensic inpatients. The authors conclude that not only is the Quality in Psychiatric Care-Forensic In-Patient a reliable and valid instrument across low, medium, and high security inpatient settings, it is also a useful tool to investigate the quality of care in a particular setting and, ultimately, to improve the quality of care.


In keeping with this forensic mental health theme, the next study discusses the importance of housing as a significant component of the recovery process for forensic mental health service users upon their reintegration into the community. Patricia Sweeney and Shobha Rani Shetty report the findings of a qualitative descriptive study designed to explore the housing preferences of forensic mental health service users in the Republic of Ireland. Recent changes in Irish legislation have prompted an increased need for housing for forensic mental health service users who have been granted a conditional discharge. Although the findings highlight the insights of the service users, the study points to the importance of collaborative relationships between forensic mental health services and community-based housing services. Unfortunately, forensic mental health service users are a doubly stigmatized group, and the combination of their mental illness histories coupled with their criminal histories often provides for additional challenges as they attempt to reintegrate into the community.


The final article in this global encounter comes to us from India, where Deepak Herald D'Souza, Vina Ravi Vaswani, and Kishor Kumar Badiadka discuss the role of forensic investigators in mass disasters, and specifically, the identification of four victims of the Mangalore Air Crash. Using a case study approach, the authors illustrate the methods utilized to describe types of injuries and identification of victims. Clearly, implications for forensic nursing go beyond the identification of the body and include such issues as disaster management, safety issues of the responders, and dealing with the aftermath of the disaster. Forensic nurses are positioned to be leaders in this area.


Closing Thoughts

The collection of papers featured herein reflects contributions to forensic nursing that have been carefully crafted and constructed in response to the diverse nature of forensic work, the unique needs of the forensic population, the importance of collaborative practices, and the varied roles that forensic nurses embrace. And although the authors of each paper illustrate different facets of forensic nursing, together, they represent an inclusive snapshot in time, providing readers with further insights into forensic nursing in its totality.


In my introductory comments, I alluded to the fact that we can be ethnocentric in our worldviews and how such views can translate into our forensic nursing research and practice. For me, these global encounters are a lot like traveling. I would like to close with a quote by Fatima Mernissi (2002) from the book entitled Scheherazade Goes West. She states:


Travel is not about fun but about learning, about crossing boundaries and mastering the fear of strangers, about making the effort to understand other cultures and thereby empowering yourself. Travel helps you to figure out who you are and how your own culture controls you. (p. 90)




(2002). Scheherazade goes west . New York, NY: Washington Square Press. [Context Link]