With more than 14 years of clinical experience as an Emergency Department nurse, certification as a sexual assault nurse examiner and a doctorate degree, Meredith Scannell, PhD, MPH, MSN, CEN, SANE-A (ED), could write the book on forensic nursing. Last year, she did exactly that, thanks to a fortuitous meeting at the Magnet Conference and the collaboration of an impressive group of contributing authors. Fast Facts About Forensic Nursing: What You Need to Know was published in December by the Springer Publishing Company.
Scannell spoke with Heart & Science about the growing field of forensic nursing, the process of publishing a book and her advice for others.
Q: What is forensic nursing?
MS: Forensic nursing combines the science of investigation with the delivery of nursing care. As you care for a patient, you consider potential evidence that needs to be collected and documented for legal purposes and the proper procedure for handing over evidence to legal experts. While my expertise is sexual assault cases, forensic nursing should be applied for cases involving different types of violence—gunshot wounds, interpersonal violence and mass casualty situations, among others.
Q: Tell us about your background and experience in this area.
MS: I have worked in the ED for many years and became certified as a sexual assault nurse examiner in 2004. I have worked extensively with patients who have suffered sexual assault, including domestic violence and human trafficking.
Q: What sparked your idea for the book?
MS: I attended the Magnet Conference in 2017, which was inspirational and amazing in many ways. There was a bookstore at the conference, and a nursing series caught my eye. I thought it lacked a book on forensic nursing. One of the conference vendors happened to be the publisher, and I asked if they would be interested in publishing such a book. They said yes, and I followed up with a proposal and a detailed table of contents. That’s how it started.
Q: You have eight contributing authors, six of whom are Brigham colleagues. Describe their role.
MS: As I was putting together the table of contents, I thought of how important it would be to engage other nurses. My background is caring for patients who have suffered from sexual violence. That’s only one aspect of forensic nursing. I sought out nurses whom I felt were emerging experts or who specialize in other areas of the field. This also helped me to think about forensic nursing in a different way.
Q: What were the biggest challenges in the publishing process?
MS: The editing and back and forth with the publisher was an extensive part of the process, and the biggest challenge was if someone was away and not checking email when we were trying to meet deadlines. Toward the end, we were working on tight deadlines that required a quick turnaround so that the publisher could deliver the book on time.
Q: What do you hope people learn from the book?
MS: I hope that readers will begin to think about forensic nursing more broadly. Emergency nurses aren’t the only ones who use these skills; nurses in all settings can use them to identify abuse. The book identifies signs nurses should look for and provides resources to help them learn more.
Q: What advice do you have for others who wish to publish a book?
MS: Be organized and have a clear vision of what you want to do. Get your thoughts down on paper, and you will edit and revise as you go. Don’t be afraid to ask people to team up and participate. This book is stronger because of the expertise of each contributor.
Brigham nurses who served as contributing authors to Fast Facts about Forensic Nursing: What You Need to Know, are:
Stacy Brady, MSN, APRN, CCRN, ACCNS-AG, Emergency Department
Corrine Foster, RN, CFRN, CEN, CCRN, C-NPT, Emergency Department
Andrea MacDonald, MSN, MBA, SANE-A, Emergency Department
Yaeko Marie Karantonis, BSN, RN, Emergency Department
Diane Miller, MSN, RN, ACNS, CEN, professional development manager, Emergency Department
Patricia Normandin, DNP, RN, CEN, CPN, CPEN, FAEN, Occupational Health Services