Forensic nursing education in North America : an exploratory study
The forensic focus has been a popular career choice and area of study for many of the health science disciplines. Forensic nursing education recently appeared in the curriculum at many colleges and universities. Now more than a decade from when some of the first forensic nursing courses were established, it was timely to explore rather than evaluate this unique specialty that has programs existing at every post-secondary educational level from certificate to doctoral programs. The purpose of the study was to explore forensic nursing knowledge as a specialty area of study, and factors influencing educational development, as perceived by educators who were instrumental in establishing some of the earliest forensic nursing courses or programs. This predominantly qualitative study involved interviewing a purposive sample of nurse educators from Canada and the United States. Data collection involved an email survey to collect demographic information about the educators and course statistics about the programs they created, in addition to a qualitative, semi-structured telephone interview. I utilized a thematic analysis to compare the data to literature relevant to the study, which included the historical evolution of forensic nursing along a sequential pattern of specialty development. I drew on my constructivist worldview to understand and interpret the responses. Although exploring forensic nursing provided a starting place for inquiry, the purpose of the research question was not only to describe what is but to consider the larger socio-technical, media, and economic forces influencing the educational development of this forensic specialty and then to link particular experiences into wider generalized and generalizing social relations. One result of this study was a definition of forensic nursing constructed from the data and compared to earlier definitions in the literature. A further differentiation of forensic nursing determined knowledge that was different from nursing in general, and different from other forensic disciplines, a distinction that has significance for interprofessional education. In addition, it was determined that the unique knowledge content of forensic nursing may be the dual knowledge or dual roles of care and concepts specific to each subspecialty, for example: care and custody, care and collection of evidence, care and chain of custody, care and court room testimony, or care and crisis intervention. In the early years of forensic nursing education development, it became evident that more than one positive factor was needed to create and maintain new specialty programs that were not then recognized as future mainstay programs. Therefore, from the constructivist worldview, multiple perspectives exist, and multiple and alternative factors are recognized to have influenced practice, education, and research in any discipline. From a constructivist interpretation to the findings of this study, all factors have relevance as all are needed for specialty programs to be developed and sustained.
specialty education, constructivism, qualitative, forensic nursing
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)