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Forensic Nursing

Our forensic nurses are registered nurses with specialized training to provide medical care to persons who have experience intentional and unintentional violence. When you or someone you love needs help, we’re ready with round-the-clock care that’s both personalized to you and holistically focused.

To speak with a forensic nurse, call (804) 628-0623

What Does a Forensic Nurse Do?

Forensic nurses orchestrate a coordinated response for patients involved in a violent crime, in a standardized and trauma informed approach. The forensic nurses at VCU Health provide unbiased care to all patients who are involved in violence. This patient population includes, but is not limited to, individuals who’ve experienced sexual assault, intimate partner violence, elder abuse, human trafficking, strangulations, shootings and stabbings.

Our team works closely with the emergency medical staff and Advocates from Project Empower, so we can ensure every patient we care for is empowered to make any decisions related to their care.
The team also works with advocacy agencies and the legal community to address victims’ needs — both physical and emotional — and make sure they receive the best possible outcome. 

If the patient decides to involve law enforcement, the forensic nurse will collaborate with local police departments, and will testify in court when needed to help patients achieve the best possible outcome.

Who Can Our Forensic Nurses Help?

We help patients who are 18 and older who have experienced:

  • Sexual assault
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Human trafficking
  • Strangulation
  • Physical assault
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stabbing
  • Elder abuse (also called senior abuse)
  • Motor vehicle crashes
  • Workplace violence
  • Other forms of interpersonal violence

Our Services

In addition to treating your physical and emotional needs as highly skilled and caring nurses, our team has access to the full depth and breadth of care at VCU Health, making it easy to connect you with specialists if you need them. We also offer confidential consultations, help reporting a violent incident and more. .

For those who have experienced violence, collecting evidence may be an important part of their care. When needed, our forensic nursing team coordinates with community partners to ensure patient-centered care.

It’s common for our team to collect evidence in cases of:  

  • Sexual assault
  • Intimate partner violence
  • Strangulation
  • Elder abuse
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Stabbings
  • Dog bites
  • Burns
  • Assaults
  • We are also sometimes called upon to conduct suspect exams and legal blood alcohol draws.

Through our Project Empower advocates, we help families experiencing domestic violence, sexual violence or human trafficking. Project Empower provides services to people who are:  

  • Patients or employees of VCU Health
  • Pregnant and have children younger than 2 years old
  • Students or employees of VCU

Our Injury and Violence Prevention Program (IVPP) also offers a number of services including Bridging the Gap. This voluntary program helps coordinate follow-up care and provides case management services to young adults who’ve experienced violence.

Community Resources

If you need help escaping domestic violence or have been the victim of sexual violence, there are many local resources to support you on your journey toward healing, including:

Educational Opportunities

In addition to caring for victims of violence, we’re committed to educating our community about types of abuse and how to help. We do this by teaching groups, including:

  • Health care providers, on topics such as:
    • Awareness and screening
    • Care protocol and evidence collection
    • Mental and medical risks of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, elder abuse and human trafficking
    • Sexual assault, intimate partner violence, familial violence, elder abuse, human trafficking, gun violence, trauma-informed care and strangulation
  • Community members, including students, school nurses, teachers and parents, on topics such as:
    • Dating violence
    • Gun violence
    • Human trafficking
    • Sexual assault
    • Strangulation

If you would like more information about our educational opportunities, email our Team Coordinator, Jean Cheek, DNP, RN, SANE-A, CN-V at jean.cheek@vcuhealth.org

Contact Us

Call us at (804) 628-0623 or email us at forensicnurseexaminer@vcuhealth.org.

Our Address:

Forensic Nursing
Main Hospital, Ground Floor
401 N. 12th St.
P.O. Box 980401
Richmond, VA 23298

History of Our Forensic Nursing Program

Our program began in 1993, when VCU Health nurses Ginger Cole, Sara Seres and Tracy Hawkins recognized the need to better help victims of sexual assault with a higher level of service through enhanced and targeted training. In 1997, they attended Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training to learn how to meet the physical, emotional, spiritual and evidentiary needs of violence survivors and the VCU Forensic Nursing team was born. The nurses saw a total of 37 patients in that first year. Today, we see more than 800 patients each year, a number that continues to grow.