EP 176: The Evolving Role of Forensic Nursing With Debra Holbrook

EP 176: The Evolving Role of Forensic Nursing With Debra Holbrook

The Evolving Role of Forensic Nursing With Debra Holbrook

The evolving role of forensic nursing has changed over the years. What is forensic nursing? Perhaps you’ve heard about it and are interested in working as one. But what is it? A forensic nurse is a Registered or Advanced Practice Nurse with specific training and education.

They specialize in caring for patients who experienced acute and long-term health issues related to victimization or violence and have unmet evidentiary needs relative to having been victimized or accused of victimization. 

In addition to these skills, forensic nurses also provide testimony and consultation for civil or criminal proceedings. It concerns nursing practice, the care given to the patient, and their opinion regarding these findings.

Forensic nursing care is not separate and distinct from other forms of medical care but rather integrated into the overall care needs of individual patients.

Our Guest

We would like to introduce you to Debra S. Holbrook in this episode. Debra is currently the Director of Forensic Nursing at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, coordinating care for interpersonal violence victims for all Baltimore City hospitals.

She is the President-Elect of the Academy of Forensic Nursing.

She has testified before a Senate Judicial Subcommittee on Crime and Drugs on behalf of a new law known as the DNA Justice Act. Debra also published the first research linking ALS to latent injury in strangulation. 

Changes in forensic nursing over the years, what forensic nursing is, and how alternative light source technology has changed the forensic sphere. 


The questions below are some we’d like to tackle. We often go off-topic, so we don’t expect to hit them all. If you have any ideas, please let us know. Looking forward to our conversation!

  1. Debra, can you give a little background about how you got into forensic nursing?
  2. You’re one of the leaders in the forensic nursing space. Was there a specific event in your life that pushed you to be a pioneer and an advocate for change in the forensic sphere?
    • We don’t remember any forensic nursing-related material from nursing school. We don’t even think we were given any info in the first place. If you were to ask us how to gather DNA or even the basic process of what to do when a victim presents in the hospital, we’d have no idea. 
    • How/when did you realize there needs to be a change in how we help victims?
    • What bothered you in the healthcare system? Where was it flawed?
  3. Where do you think we could still improve? Where are we still lacking in helping the victim or the flaws in this giant healthcare system?
    • We spoke to a SANE nurse before, and one of the major issues in forensic nursing is the lack of resources and funding.
    • Some people get scarred for life and have the trauma for the rest of their lives. Does the current system help them through these times, or is it a one-and-done approach, and then the victim has to seek further care?
  4. You testified on capitol hill before a Senate judicial committee on crime and drugs on behalf of a bill signed in 2005 as the DNA Justice Act. Can you walk us through how you came up with the bill and how you got to the point of presenting it and getting it signed into law?
  5. You published the first research linking alternative light source technology to latent injury. How does alternate light source technology assist in identifying injury?
  6. What is a project you are currently working on or a problem you are looking to solve?


Before we end the show, we have one last question we like to ask all our guests. If you had the opportunity to have a Cup of coffee with anybody one last time, who would it be & why?  

If you are a victim of abuse or assault or need someone to talk to about what you are going through, download the bmoresafe app. This app helps address the needs of patients in the Baltimore area and provides resources for sexual or domestic assault victims.

You can download this app for free through PlayStore.

Get to know the evolving role of forensic nursing by watching this full episode here 👇


00:00 Introduction
01:19 About the guest
08:45 What are the flaws of our healthcare system
13:31 What is an asylum case
15:00 Where is the funding coming from
16:43 Qualities of a forensic nurse
18:48 Forensic nursing myth
21:34 Reasons why victims are not reporting the crime
24:10 The first thing a forensic nurse should do when dealing with a victim
26:58 Very brutal and degrading crimes
29:41 Advanced technology that helps solve crimes
32:41 Alternate Light Source :
36:49 What’s next for Debb?
38:12 Reasons why heinous crimes exist
44:22 Keeping work and life balanced
47:27 Wrapping up the episode