Roles of the Forensic Psychiatric Nurse in the United States

Forensic psychiatric nurses (FPNs) collect evidence from a patient's body in assault cases. Because they work with both victims and assailants, they are required to work with both health care and law enforcement teams. Typically, FPNs are Registered Nurses (RNs). However, Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Licensed Vocational Nurses (LVNs) can sometimes be FPNs, such as in rural areas where there are inadequate numbers of RNs to work as FPNs.

Member-Nursing Team

FPNs are primarily members of the nursing team. Team nursing is a nursing theory and method of practice utilized since the 1990s which allows each nurse to bring as much expertise to the team as possible. FPNs are primarily responsible for patient care. If they are the first on the scene, they must quickly assess immediate health concerns like bleeding or respiratory difficulties. Once patients are stable, FPNs must ensure complete emotional and physical comfort. If patients feel anxious, FPNs might relocate them to quiet rooms away from the nurses station. If they are in pain, FPNs could administer prescribed pain medication.

Member-Law Enforcement Team

FPNs are the only members of the nursing team who are also members of the law enforcement team. It is the responsibility of FPNs to gather bodily evidence such as hair and fluids in sexual assault cases, or measurements and pictures of wounds in stabbing cases. FPNs accompany gunshot victims to the Operating Room, ensuring evidence is properly gathered and the correct chain of command is followed.

Patient Advocate

FPNs are also advocates for patient needs. They should conduct a mini-mental examination for each patient--a basic screening of overall mental health. In working with crime victims, FPNs should contact social workers to help such patients locate community services like medical assistance and counseling, that will further aid in crime recovery. FPNs ensure patients receive fair and compassionate treatment.