The Texas A&M College of Nursing’s forensic nursing program has been elevated to center status, allowing for a larger graduate program and the opportunity to make more courses available to allies such as police officers and social workers.

Earlier this month, the Texas A&M University System’s Board of Regents approved the designation of the Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing. The change will serve as a conduit for state and federal money to be allocated toward forensic nursing education at the university.

Kala McCain, spokesperson for the College of Nursing, explained that all nursing students in the state are required to have two hours of forensic education to receive their degree. At Texas A&M, all nursing students enroll in 6.5 hours of forensic nursing courses. In 2017, the first master of science degree in forensic nursing was created, and four of the 10 original students on that degree path will be graduating in December. Now that the specialty in study for the registered nurses or advanced practice registered nurses has grown at Texas A&M, the new Center of Excellence is furthering the school’s ability to positively influence the field on a statewide and national scale.

“This opens the doors for us to apply for things [financially] we haven’t to be able to in the past,” McCain said, although added a fixed number has not been determined.

As of the approval of the center by the Texas A&M University System Board of Regents on Aug. 8, the College of Nursing has already been able to claim one accomplishment. In collaboration with the office of the Texas Attorney General, Aggie nursing faculty formally updated the state’s protocol for evidence collection from doctors and nurses this week. Although not directly connected to the Center of Excellence’s creation, McCain said this should illustrate the impact that TAMU’s forensic nursing program can have. Bodily evidence collection by physicians and nurses in cases of crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence can be important for use in criminal trial.

“Not just anyone can partner with the attorney general to update the protocol for collecting evidence while providing that patient-centered care that can then be utilized in court,” McCain said.

Brazos County Assistant District Attorney Jessica Escue and her colleagues speak with students on this academic path at Texas A&M, thanks to a contract with the College of Nursing. Escue explained that it’s important to show forensic nurses how their work can be used in trial and to educate them on cross-examination.

“Forensic nurses provide a really critical testimony, because the medical evidence in cases such as assault, sexual assault, domestic violence, etc., doesn’t look like what’s shown on television,” she said.

For more information on the Center of Excellence, visit nursing.tamhsc.edu/cefn.

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