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chain of custody, evidence-based practice, evidence collection, forensics, forensic guidelines



  1. Eisert, Peter J. BS, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
  2. Eldredge, Kelli MSN, RN, CCRN, SANE-A
  3. Hartlaub, Tami BSN, RN, CEN
  4. Huggins, Emily MHA, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
  5. Keirn, Geneva BSCJ, RN, SANE-A
  6. O'Brien, Patti RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
  7. Rozzi, Heather V. MD, FAAEM, FACEP
  8. Pugh, Linda C. PhD, RNC, FAAN
  9. March, Karen S. PhD, RN, CCRN, ACNS-BC


Emergency department (ED) nurses care for victims of trauma almost daily. Although preservation of evidence is crucial, the ED is chaotic when a trauma patient arrives and staff members must do everything possible to save the patient's life. However, an integral responsibility of the staff nurse is collection and preservation of forensic evidence. This article provides insight into the process undertaken by a multidisciplinary team to develop a set of evidence-based guidelines for forensic evidence collection. The team compiled evidence from more than 20 articles and consultations with law enforcement officials and forensic experts. This information was used to develop a set of guidelines for forensic evidence collection in the ED or operating room. Staff educational needs presented some challenges. Training was designed to specifically address the roles of three major groups of staff: patient representatives and emergency and trauma nurses. Educational topics included evidence recognition, handling of clothing, gross/trace evidence, documentation, packaging of evidence, and use of the "chain-of-evidence" form. Practice modifications included development of a new "chain-of-evidence" form, a forensic cart in the operating room, and use of a collapsible plastic box for collection of clothing in the ED.