Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, SANE-A, associate professor at the Texas A&M College of Nursing was recently appointed to the Texas Forensic Science Commission by Governor Greg Abbot. Since 2005, the commission has provided oversight for Texas crime laboratories and other units conducting forensic analyses for use in criminal investigations. Additionally, the commission provides guidance in establishing procedures, policies and practices that improve the quality of forensic analyses conducted in Texas.

“This appointment is both an honor and an extension of my responsibilities as a forensic nurse,” Downing said. “I look forward to working with my fellow commissioners to continue to safeguard the integrity of forensic science in Texas.”

Downing, one of several new or newly appointed commissioners, is believed to be the first forensic nurse and forensic nurse educator to serve on the commission. Forensic nurses specialize in providing health care for victims of crime, while collecting evidence for potential court cases. She intends to incorporate the insights and experiences gained on the commission into her teaching. “It is important that our students are mindful of the responsibility they have to provide patient-centered care while also adhering to the highest level of professional forensic standards,” she said. “Forensic nursing bridges the gap between health care and justice.”

The College of Nursing is developing a forensic health care program that will provide education for nurses at every stage of their career, as well as an interdisciplinary program for other professionals who assist victims of interpersonal violence.

Continuing education (CE) courses for nurses working in emergency departments will be offered in 2017. These classes will help nurses develop their knowledge and clinical skills in evidence collection. Although nurses from across Texas who meet the requirements are eligible to enroll in CE courses, the program was initially created to offer much-needed support in rural areas where there may not be any nurses trained in sexual assault evidence collection. The courses will be offered to emergency department (ED) nurses, as well as those who may occasionally work in EDs.

The college is seeking approval from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to offer a Master of Science in nursing (MSN) in Forensic Nursing. If approved, it would be one of only two such MSN programs in the nation.

Students in the first cohort of the college’s Graduate Certificate Program in Forensic Health Care are set to begin the online program in the spring. This multi-disciplinary program includes nurses and other health care providers, law enforcement personnel, hospital and community-based social workers, protective service investigators, prosecutors and other professionals who assist victims of violence and trauma.

“Dr. Downing’s appointment to the Texas Forensic Science Commission is a reflection of her leadership, and the work that she and other faculty have done to create a premier forensic health care program at Texas A&M University Health Science Center,” said Sharon Wilkerson, PhD, RN, founding dean of the Texas A&M College of Nursing. “Through her service on the commission and the college’s forensic health care education programs, the College of Nursing is strengthening patient care and evidence collection practices in Texas, to better meet the needs of patients who experience personal violence.”

— Diane L. Oswald

You may also like
Forensic nursing exam
Forensic nursing: Giving back control to victims of abuse