By: Kimberley Falk

Like their parents, teenagers love watching true crime. These real accounts of stalkers, serial killers, kidnappers, and more are hard to turn off. They often show crimes targeted against racial or queer parties that don’t get the true justice that they deserve. Although when we’re safe in our homes, we don’t have to come face-to-face with the evil, some young adults have evolved their viewing habits into an interest in criminology and advocating for social justice.

Forensics and social justice in health care

Nurses make up the largest group of healthcare workers worldwide and will always be in demand. Forensic nurse examiners (FNE) are increasingly becoming a recognized requirement in the health sciences, where not long ago the area was left inadequately unaddressed. Nurses are often the first point of contact between members of those who are underrepresented in the community and the care they seek.

In instances of crimes against these groups, providing equal treatment for each person is easier said than done. In the past, crimes against women, minorities, LGBTQ+, and others have fallen through the cracks, leading to many questions that never get answered. As awareness of social inequalities becomes more mainstream thanks to social media, there’s an obvious push by the public to take more action to ensure every community member is cared for and properly represented.

Social justice is the idea that the laws and systems in place should be fair to everyone, regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other factors. It’s about creating a society in which everyone has equal opportunities and access to resources, regardless of their background. Social justice advocates in the Cultural Competence and Social Justice Leadership specialized program from UCR University Extension enhance their belief that everyone deserves a fair chance in life. If people are treated equally and fairly, society will be better for it and we will all be able to live healthier and happier lives. Additionally, students learn how to improve classroom practices, policies, and leadership through ongoing equity assessments.

The role of forensic science in social justice

By definition, forensic science is the application of scientific methods to answer questions of interest to the legal system, health care industry, and more. It’s a field that spans across disciplines and applies principles from many sciences in order to interpret evidence to reach the truth.

Forensic scientists are often called upon to provide expert witness testimony in criminal cases and civil lawsuits. They may be asked to identify or analyze evidence found at a crime scene or determine if someone was intoxicated by alcohol or drugs at the time of an event. The forensic scientist and crime scene investigator might also be asked to examine biological samples such as blood spatter patterns on clothing or gunshot residue on skin cells for clues about what took place at a crime scene.

Randy Beasley teaches blood stain splatter analysis as part of the Crime Scene Investigation certificate at UCR University Extension. He says three key skills are:

  • The ability to recognize bloodstain patterns
  • To be cautious in the interpretation of investigations
  • To take your time and focus.

The certificate program covers a wide selection of necessary CSI skills including how to sample, photograph, and recover evidence from a crime scene.

In the healthcare industry, forensics can be used to recover evidence from an accused, victim, witnesses, and possible suspects in a crime. In some cases, the forensic evidence recovered can prove a suspect’s innocence over charges previously laid by police. Forensic nurse examiners are highly good at analytics, assessments, and questioning what’s in front of them. Their skills can seek to limit the delay in the legal system, in part due to the role of health care, which often leads to lost evidence, improper persecutions, and even the death of suspects or victims of a crime.

The Forensic Nursing Professional Certificate opens the doors for forensic nurses, psychiatric nurses, nurse examiners, and more in an online format that often takes less than a year to complete. Coursework includes preparation for conducting sexual assault examinations, communicating with the entire forensics team, in-depth study of forensic nurse professional practices, and more.

“The reason for forensic nursing education is to see things that the average nurse does not see,” says our instructor, Lisa Gottuso, MSN-ED, RN. Also, hear first-hand from our instructor Thomas Collins, MA, BSN, RN.

Collins says one of the key skills for forensic students to have is to “keep an open mind when [they] gather information … The suspect might actually be the victim.”

Young adults wanting to pursue a career path in nursing, criminal justice, or social justice may benefit from a multidisciplinary focus in forensic sciences.