Lynn realized she was part of a system that simply wasn’t working. So she changed it.
Lynn has been a nurse for over 40 years. As a young nurse, she loved to fix problems. “I had the tools to help people manage their physical health.” But more importantly, Lynn loved connecting with people–caring for them as patients and as people. It’s no surprise that when traditional nursing seemed to lose the “relational work” that was important to Lynn, she found a unique specialty – forensic nursing.
Lynn and her team provide specialized medical care to anyone who has experienced physical or sexual abuse. This includes collecting for forensic evidence, testing for and treating sexually transmitted infections, and caring for related injuries. Forensic nursing gives Lynn the chance to restore dignity to survivors of sexual assault by using a trauma-informed approach.
Forensic nurses care for more than the physical wounds – they can also care for the emotional and psychological wounds that are often the hardest injuries to heal. Tammy, a forensic nurse for 13 years makes sure each of her patients leave hearing the same message, “You didn’t do anything wrong. You didn’t deserve what happened”.
When the exam is over, Lynn and her team are still left with the stark reality that as forensic nurses they can only do so much. “Eventually the patient has to leave,” Lynn points out. “And then what? Then they have to navigate the world, their family and their jobs.”
Now Lynn and her team partner with Surrey Women’s Centre to fill this gap. The Surrey Mobile Assault Response Team (SMART) provides a 24-hour crisis response to women and girls who have experienced a physical or sexual assault and need medical treatment. Together, the forensic nurses and community-based support workers ensure women and girls have the help they need in the emergency room and beyond.
Paula turned to forensic nursing eight years ago to follow her passion. For her, partnering with Surrey Women’s Centre to care for sexual assault survivors means that she “no longer needs to be the advocate, nurse and evidence collector. Caring for the patient while maintaining impartiality is critical for forensic nurses who are often called to testify about their findings in court.”
Lynn describes that, through this partnership, she has been able to ensure that every piece of a woman’s hospital visit and beyond is coordinated – making it safer and easier for her to get the care she needs. “I can coordinate it so that when the patient arrives at the hospital – SMART is already involved, and the hospital knows she’s coming.” For women travelling from other areas of the region that don’t have forensic nursing services at their local hospital, this means she arrives for an exam and doesn’t have the frustrating or traumatizing experience of re-telling the story of her assault.
Lynn says, “we need to make changes so that people feel safe.”
Safety… A sign that a system is working.