viewing autopsy??

  1. i hope i am posting this in the right forum... i am a paramedic in nursing school and although i am interested in flight nursing, forensic nursing is really interesting to me... i would like to be able to shadow a forensic nurse and see what they do exactly, but i cant get ANY medical examiner's office in this state to call me back! i would really like to get in to view an autopsy, i promise i wont touch anything, but its something i know we arent doing in school... does anyone know of any programs for students to intern in forensic nursing or a coroner's office??
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    About flightnurse2b

    Joined: Jul '07; Posts: 2,287; Likes: 4,694
    Paramedic/LPN; from US
    Specialty: EMS, ER, GI, PCU/Telemetry


  3. by   4n608
    [i would like to be able to shadow a forensic nurse and see what they do exactly, but i cant get ANY medical examiner's office in this state to call me back!]

    Hi allison,

    I know of only a few people in a few states who have managed to get to view an autopsy. It really depends on the state and on the circumstances.

    I am an in an MSN Forensic Nurse Clinical Specialist program. The university has contracts with all the agencies we do clinicals with, including the Medical Examiner's office. One of my required courses is a Forensic Pathology class, taught by the Deputy Chief Medical Examiner for the state. As part of the clinical time I have observed a number of autopsies, as well as gone out with the Death Investigators to death scenes (not always, nor even most of the time, crime scenes). This is part of the 180 clinical hrs we do with various agencies per semester (240 hrs next semester, my last).

    Seeing an autopsy gives an appreciation for what force can do to the body, as well as a better understanding of natural disease processes. The pathophysiology becomes real, instead of reading about it in a book or even seeing signs and symptoms of trauma or disease in a patient. But do you need to see an autopsy to decide whether to become a forensic nurse? Absolutely not! Your best bet is just to focus on finishing nursing school, research forensic nursing and all its sub-specialties. If you are interested in death investigation, research what the systems and processes are in your state. Is it a coroner based system or a Medical Examiner System? Or a combination? Who does death investigation in your state? What role does law enforcement play? Look into whether your state has a chapter in the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN), if it does - place membership in IAFN and then in your chapter and get involved. Find out who is doing what in your chapter, perhaps they might be able to get you on the inside track. Sometimes the circumstances can be changed by networking and who you know in this field.

    If you can, take a forensic pathology course (you usually need a pathophysiology course as a pre-requisite) or a pathology course and see if you can get to see an autopsy that way. Just understand that forensic nursing is not necessarily equal to seeing an autopsy, many forensic nurses have never seen an autopsy. Once you're a nurse, and if you're still interested, look into a formal forensic nursing program where you actually get to do clinical time, preferably one in a university that has contracts with various agencies. It's very, very difficult to get into an agency, including ME, on your own.

    Best of luck to you.
  4. by   morte
    hmmm, when i was a student (the dinasaurs had just died out) i invited myself to two posts.... i worked at a teaching hospital....talked to the diener he checked with the pathologist, and i was in....
  5. by   flightnurse2b
    thank you for your replies! here in NC im pretty sure it is a state ME office @ UNC in Chapel Hill... ive taken a few college classes in forensics (forensic anthropology, etc), but i never got any real hands on experience.. so it was kind of hard to put it all together. its just always been so fascinating to me! anyway, good luck to you as well and i really appreciate all your advice!
  6. by   4n608
    The only other thing I can think of, allison, is to keep trying. You say you are a paramedic interested in both flight and forensic nursing, why not combine the two? You could be a flight nurse whose focus specialty is in knowing how to preserve evidence on scenes. You've taken courses in forensics, how do you apply what you have learned as a paramedic? Learn how how apply the teaching you've had. And then keep going.

    I emphasize becoming involved in your state IAFN chapter. Networking can provide you with opportunities you may not get otherwise.

    And about the ME's office, I said what I did because I had to cram my 40 hrs of clinical time with them into one week - regardless of my work and school schedule. We were not allowed to go beyond the one week, because - as it was explained to us, there many others who also need to get their time in. And only a limited number of people wer allowed at autopsy, including any law enforcement personnel who needed to be present.

    There is such a thing as the CSI effect, and where there may have been plenty of opportunity before to intern in this type of field; since CSI, there has been a flood of interest and enrollment in various CSI type fields. That's why opportunities don't exist like they used to.

    One other thing, I don't often post on bulletin boards. But just so you know, I have been in healthcare since the 1980's. I noticed in the early 1990's that there was a huge gap between the medical and legal systems. And so I started to educate myself. I have now been in school for ten years learning about criminal justice, forensics, CSI (the real thing), and forensic nursing. I work as an emergency room nurse and also as a forensic nurse. I have had directors of EDs (plural) who haev come to me and asked me to write policy and to educate other nurses on how to collect evidence, without compromising patient care. I have come in, after being called in via pager, to collect evidence, with police waiting for me, and with the media outside. I have been deposed and have been in court. My teachers and mentors are those who write textbooks in forensic nursing, direct crime labs, are medical examiners, are prosecutors, and who function as expert witnesses. I have been extremely fortunate to have them as teachers and mentors. And if I share something with someone, even a post on a bulletin board, it does not originate with me, but with my teachers and mentors.

    I thought you should know. Again, best of luck - and don't get discouraged. Be patient and be persistent.
  7. by   PA.NURSE
    I happened to stumble upon a Virtual Autopsy that was filmed by a University. It is very clinical and very informative. Google under videos "virtual autopsy" and you should be able to find it! I have seen two autopsies in my 26 years of practice...and this is just as good if not better....
  8. by   leslie :-D
    someone on this board, provided the following link, which graphically displayed autopsies being performed.
    today when i clicked on it, these videos weren't readily available.
    however, here's the site, and look around.

  9. by   Brian
    Just wanted to let everyone in this thread know about this nursing article Lessons from an Autopsy written by a nurse who was able to observe an autopsy and shared her experience from a nurses perspective.
  10. by   Itshamrtym
    Thank you Brian!!! I have seen this article and it is amazing. Hope others will check it out.