Origins of Forensic Nursing

Compassionate care is especially meaningful when fear, youth, age, or stress robs vulnerable individuals of the ability to speak for themselves. Over the past three decades, forensic nursing has 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.

As is often the case, when a radical improvement in healthcare takes place, one visionary emerges - Virginia A. Lynch. Ms. Lynch began writing her thesis in the 1980's, and she completed it in 1990 at the University of Texas at Arlington. She then published her seminal work entitled, "Clinical Forensic Nursing: A Descriptive Study in Role Development." Ms. Lynch conceptualized nurses as torchbearers for the improvement of medical-forensic practice, and she led the way by taking the forensic nursing role global.


Ms. Lynch has been a pioneer throughout her nursing career. During the 1980's, she established the first post-sexual assault care clinic in Parker County, Texas. Ms. Lynch also served as a county medico-legal death investigator in the state of Georgia. In 1991, the American Academy of Forensic Sciences (AAFS) asked that she define the practice of forensic nursing and establish a place for forensic nurses in the organization. Forensic nursing gained specialty recognition by the American Nurses Association (ANA) in 1995.


Forensic nurses influence standards of practice globally through consensus documents, research, and professional practice, in areas as wide-ranging as the military, domestic abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, sexual assault, death investigation, and beyond. 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 practice, while establishing the role of the forensic nurse in health care of communities around the world. In 2018, a cadre of forensic nursing professionals with more than 500 cumulative years of experience in nursing and more than 240 years of experience in forensic nursing practice came together to take up Ms. Lynch’s vision for the future, and the Academy of Forensic Nursing (AFN) was born.