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Degree Offered in Response to Increased Need for Forensic Nurses in New Jersey

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J. (March 5, 2002) Ė Monmouth University today announced that it will begin offering a masterís of science in nursing (MSN) with a concentration in forensic nursing and a graduate certificate in forensic nursing in fall 2002. Monmouth University will become the first institution in New Jersey and one of a very few others in the world to offer this concentration.

Forensic nursing is an emerging field where healthcare providers work with law enforcement officials to apply nursing science to public and legal proceedings. These licensed, registered nurses provide direct services to individuals and consultation to healthcare and law-related agencies. They investigate and treat victims and perpetrators of abuse, violence, criminal activity, sexual assault and traumatic events. This can include identifying injuries and their causes, collecting evidence, documenting findings, teaching risk reduction strategies, referring for appropriate follow-up and testifying in court.

Monmouth Universityís forensic nursing program includes the study of interpersonal violence, forensic evidence, nursing ethics and legal issues. The program will prepare graduates to work in a variety of areas including child/elder abuse assessment and evaluation; domestic violence intervention; sexual assault examination; mass disaster response and death investigation.

The MSN in forensic nursing is being offered through the Universityís Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, which is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. The program was developed by Sharon Stark, assistant professor at Monmouth University and Eileen Allen, coordinator of the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program for Monmouth County. Ms. Allen is currently pursuing her MSN at Monmouth University.

The emergence of forensic nursing in New Jersey is an outgrowth of a 1996 legislative mandate led by Assemblyman Joseph Azzolina (District 13), which established a SANE program in the Monmouth County Prosecutorís Office. The program utilized specially trained, registered nurses who provided care to and collected forensic evidence from victims of sexual assault. Strongly supported by Monmouth County Prosecutor John Kaye, it was permanently instituted in cooperation with the Women's Center of Monmouth County, under the direction of the New Jersey State Attorney General's Office of Victim/ Witness Advocacy. Other counties followed the Monmouth County model and in 2001, new legislation by Assemblyman Azzolina was passed that established a sexual assault nurse examiner program in every County Prosecutorís Office in the State.

The forensic nursing concentration is part of Monmouth Universityís ongoing effort to increase and contribute to the healthcare profession in Monmouth County and the surrounding areas. According to Ms. Stark, there is a serious need for nurses and nurse educators and as a result, Monmouth Universityís MSN is one of its fastest-growing programs. After polling her students, she found that there was a definite interest in a forensic nursing concentration and she worked with Ms. Allen to develop a curriculum that would best prepare graduates for careers in the field.

The Monmouth University MSN program is designed to prepare nurses through advanced professional learning and activity in the following areas: adult nurse practitioner, family nurse practitioner, nurse administrator and school nurse. Starting in fall 2002 Monmouth University will add nurse educator and school nurse programs. These programs are designed to develop expertise in a defined body of knowledge arrived at through the study of scientific research and clinical practice in a selected area. MSN students are provided with opportunities to work in primary care or relevant settings to interact with people in their environment through independent nursing assessment, diagnosis and treatment or referral to another practitioner when necessary.

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