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In the criminal justice system, there are...Forensic Nurses

November 16, 2004 -- On November 23, NBC's "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" will reportedly air an episode ("Doubt") that actually features a forensic nurse examiner (FNE) character. An FNE (also known as a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE)) is one of the nurses who increasingly direct initial care for sexual assault victims in major metro areas like New York, but who have rarely appeared in prime time network dramas. We understand that, due to the initiative and strong support of series star Mariska Hargitay, two FNE's provided extensive technical assistance to the show's producers and actors on this episode. Of course, the final product will reflect dramatic choices by the producers, but the Center urges all to tune in on Tuesday, November 23 at 10/9 p.m. for what may be a more significant and accurate portrayal of vital nursing work than is commonly seen in prime time.

The Center understands that Karen Carroll-Coleman, RN, SANE-A, and Donna Gaffney, RN, DNSc, FAAN, SANE-A, reviewed the episode's script for inaccuracies, and that script changes were actually made in response to their input. We understand that these nurses also provided expert advice to the show's producers and actors as to the portrayals of the victim, the forensic nurse examiner, and the accused, and that they helped the props department secure the right equipment. Prime time dramas, such as NBC's "ER," typically portray physicians providing most if not all important care of sexual assault victims. However, in many major metro areas--where such shows are often set--specially trained forensic nurses take the lead in providing care for victims and others associated with violent crimes, and they collect and preserve evidence and testify in court, as needed. Thus, forensic nurses are actually critical parts of the health care and criminal justice ("law and order") systems.

Tune in to NBC's "Law and Order: Special Victims Unit" on Tuesday, November 23 at 10/9 p.m.


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