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Nursing students learn crime-solving techniques

June 6, 2013

KOKOMO, Ind. — Whether in a hospital room or courtroom, Marlene Greskamp's students will be prepared.

Nursing forensics classStudents discuss ways to handle potential situations.This summer, nursing students at Indiana University Kokomo are not learning about taking vitals, but rather how to collect and preserve body fluid samples as evidence in a crime, testify in court on a victim's behalf, and assist a coroner in looking for signs of foul play during an autopsy.

Assistant Professor Greskamp developed the only nursing forensics class offered through IU, based on her own background caring for child abuse victims.

Her goal? For nurses to be ready and able to help victims when they are needed.

"I want them to leave knowing a crime can occur anywhere, even in a hospital," she said. "I want them to know what to do, and to know the provisions to collect evidence to get the perpetrator arrested and convicted. I also want them to care for the victims with empathy."

Joshua Holley, from Wabash, was intrigued by how nurses can use their knowledge and skills to assist crime victims.

"As medical professionals, we think past the physical, we also think about the psychological impact on our patient," he said. "It is critical that we are prepared to care for crime victims in an empathetic way. We are the first people they talk to, and we can help make the best of a bad situation, or we can make it even worse, depending on the care we provide."

This is the third year Greskamp has offered the elective, which includes viewing an autopsy, and visits with prosecutors, coroners, and domestic abuse experts. Each class also includes discussion of a cold case, and a role-playing scenario, allowing the students to put themselves in a situation that might require forensics skills.

"I've always liked trying to look at a situation, and thinking outside the box about what might have happened," she said. "Nurses have to have that sixth sense to know when things aren't quite right, so they can follow up and check until they get the answers."

Greskamp said they learn about proper collection of evidence, so it will be admissible in court, and how to testify in court as an expert.

Barb Hedrick, Kokomo, chose the class because she enjoys watching true crime shows on television.

"This class has given me a lot of insight into the role I can play as a nurse," she said.

Kimberly Byrum, Peru, said the class opened up career possibilities for her. One of the guest speakers was a sexual assault nursing examiner, a job Byrum did not know existed.

"When you first choose nursing, you know there are opportunities out there, but there are a lot more than you realize," she said. "This gave me another idea of what I could do as a nurse."

IU Kokomo's new Maymester program offers students a chance to earn three credits in a short time period, in an immersive class. A few other offerings include a creative nonfiction writing class in Foster Park, a summer blockbuster class, in which students study cinematography and editing through viewing and discussing current movies; and a public relations class that includes developing campaigns for local nonprofit organizations. Maymester continues through Thursday, June 6.

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 09/02/2014