Forensic nurses vital to providing proper care for rape survivors

With nursing in the spotlight following last week’s national summit convened by the Department of Health and DENOSA’s upcoming conference this week, organizations forming part of the Shukumisa campaign call on the Department, nursing bodies and unions to ensure forensic nursing is placed high on the list of priorities.

Forensic nursing is an overlooked but vital field of nursing crucial to providing specialised care to rape survivors. Forensic nurses are trained to perform forensic examinations and testify in court as expert witnesses. This means they often know more about the care and treatment of rape patients than the average doctor. They are also an answer to the shortage of doctors in rural areas.

But forensic nursing is not recognized as a specialty by the South African Nursing Council (SANC). In addition, courts in some provinces do not recognize forensic nurses as expert witnesses competent to testify knowledgeably on the findings of the medico-legal examination.

The SANC failure to recognize forensic nursing as a specialty means they do not qualify for the Occupation Specific Dispensation (OSD). There is no uniform rate of pay for forensic nurses, which means they often earn low wages for doing work that medical officers are paid much more for doing – undermining the principle of equal pay for work of equal value.

This has led to a situation where we cannot retain skilled forensic nurses and other nurses become discouraged from training in this area.  But, most crucially, it also undermines the government’s policy which promised to increase rape survivors’ access to quality health services.

In addition to asking DENOSA to table this vital issue at their conference, the Shukumisa campaign calls on:

  • The Director-General of Health to convene a working group including of medical practitioners, nursing professionals, NGO service providers, academic teaching institutions and other relevant stakeholders to determine the content, length, scope and nature of training to forensic nurses.
  • The Department of Health to develop and gazette directives around forensic nurses;
  • The Department of Health to fund the posts of forensic nurses employed by organisations in the non-profit sector;
  • The SANC to re-examine, as a matter of urgency their unwillingness to recognise forensic nursing as a specialty.

Here is a copy of a forensic nursing briefing note by Shukumisa

For more information please contact:

Boogie Dlamini, WMACA (forensic nurse) 082 458 7448

Shaheda Omar, Teddy Bear Clinic 076 236 0735

Debbie Harrison, Lifeline 082 445 3599

Lisa Vetten, Tshwaranang 082 822 6725

Posted in Dealing With Rape, Uncategorized Tagged with: