Origins of Forensic Nursing


Over the past three decades, Forensic Nursing emerged as a health care discipline to inform communities of interest, and provide and improve the quality of care for society’s most vulnerable populations. Forensic nurses combine compassionate care in their practices using science to provide a “voice” that brings safety, medical treatment, and justice to patients who experience trauma in all its forms. Compassionate care is especially meaningful when fear, youth, age, or stress robs vulnerable individuals of the ability to speak for themselves.

As is often the case, when a radical improvement in healthcare take place, one visionary emerges - Virginia A. Lynch. Ms. Lynch conceptualized nurses as torchbearers for improved medical forensic practice, and she led the way by taking the forensic nursing role to the far corners of the globe.

Over thirty years ago, nurses had assistant roles in providing care. As a pioneer throughout her nursing career, Ms. Lynch established the first rape clinic in Parker County Texas during the 1980s and in Georgia, she served as a county medicolegal death examiner. Begun in the 1980s, in 1990, Ms. Lynch completed her thesis at the University of Texas at Arlington, and published her seminal work entitled, Clinical Forensic Nursing: A Descriptive Study in Role Development. [1]

In 1991, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) asked Ms. Lynch to define the practice of forensic nursing and establish a place for forensic specialists in the organization. Thus, began her journey to develop the new nursing profession, and continue her research and advocacy that evolves today. Today, Forensic Nurses influence standards of practice globally through consensus documents, research and professional practice, in areas as wide-ranging as the military, domestic, child, and elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, legal and death investigation.

As the founding champion of forensic nursing as a specialty with scientific underpinnings in nursing science, Ms. Lynch promotes global training and credentialing for forensic nurses – both to ensure a standard of care and to elevate the application of forensic science to nursing practices globally, while establishing the role of the forensic nurse in health care of communities globally.  In 2018, a cadre of forensic nursing professionals with 500 cumulative years' experience in nursing and 240 years’ experience in Forensic Nursing practices came together to take up Ms. Lynch’s vision for the future. They formed the Academy of Forensic Nursing (AFN).

1.  Lynch, V., & Gordon, P. (1990). Clinical Forensic Nursing: A Descriptive Study in Role Development, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses.