Forensic Nursing in the Coutroom

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While training in nursing school, classes are specific to providing nursing care. Nursing classes include pharmacology, documentation, anatomy, physiology and hands-on care. Nurses receive no formal training on law, involvement with police or how to present yourself in court.

As a relatively new nurse, I received a subpoena to appear in court. I was the nurse who performed a legal blood draw for alcohol on a patient brought in by police. During that time, I worked midnight shift and performed from 3-5 alcohol legal blood draws per week. Because the frequency of blood draws happen during the late-night hours, I was very familiar with these procedures.

Our hospital had a specific protocol for these draws and documentation of such. Prior to witnessing, the prosecuting attorney reviewed my educational and work background with me. While I was sitting on the witness stand, I was asked questions that had been discussed with the prosecuting attorney.

The defense attorney then began questioning. This particular attorney was very demeaning in his questioning. I felt as though he was trying to prove that I didn’t know what I was doing, that I did not have the education to support my practice. It was very difficult to listen to criticism that was not founded. By trying to interject additional information, I may have been tagged as being argumentative.

Due to the lack of education related to court proceedings, I could have been asked to step down from the witness stand. In retrospect, I understand that the defense attorney will try to make the witness frustrated and upset in hopes to elicit contempt or incriminating evidence. I should have only answered yes or no or provided a brief, concise answer to questions that were asked by the attorneys. More information does not make or break a case. Confidence and demeanor of the witness provide a tremendous statement about the issue at hand to the jury.

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