In honor of National Nurses Week this week, we wanted to give you a closer look at just a few of the incredible nurses that are part of the Bon Secours Richmond Forensic Nursing Program.
Founded in 1993, before forensic nursing had even been accepted as a nursing specialty, this program has provided care to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week for nearly 30 years. Their patients have been victims of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, strangulation and human trafficking.
Our Richmond Forensic Nursing Program, which is available in our seven hospitals and three freestanding emergency departments, is one of the busiest forensic nursing programs in the country. These nurses respond to about 2,500 calls for service per year. This past April, however, this lean team of 18 nurses saw its highest month on record with 265 calls for service.
Here is a closer look at just a few of our incredible forensic nurses who provide quality, compassionate care to victims of abuse.
Kendall Plummer, BSN, RN, CLIN II
Since Kendall Plummer (pictured above, left) was 15 years old, she knew she wanted to work with those who have experienced trauma. She just wasn’t sure what that would look like. As she progressed through nursing school and learned about forensic nursing, she knew it was the specialty she wanted to do.
Kendall has been a forensic nurse for two years. She says the forensic nursing field has opened her eyes to violence that she didn’t know was so prevalent in her community.
“To be a part of this team and work in this field has been internally rewarding,” Kendall shares. “While it’s difficult to hear the recounts of trauma from young children to elderly patients, it’s also humbling and a blessing to be there for others on some of the worst days of their lives.”
Working in a field that is so often very mentally draining, she shares that she has learned the importance of self-care.
“As a nurse, we are used to putting others first, but I’ve learned how important it is to take care of myself. You can’t pour from an empty cup,” says Kendall. “Fortunately, our team is supportive of each other and is always willing to listen to the stories from our day. From one nurse to another, it is so important to look out for your coworkers, friends, neighbors, family and other loved ones. Never be afraid to ask them hard questions because it just may save their life one day.”
Ashley Balcombe, BSN, RN, Clin III
Ashley Balcombe (pictured above, right) has been a forensic nurse for more than a year. Ever since she can remember, she wanted to work in an area where she could help people.
After initial pursuing forensic science, she changed her career path to the forensic nursing specialty. Through her work, she feels so rewarded being able to help this special population through some of the toughest times of their lives.
“Doing this job means I’m a shoulder to cry on, a person to vent to, someone to laugh and smile with, and someone to bring peace of mind to,” Ashley shares. “Unfortunately, violence does not discriminate against age or gender. Our patient population ranges from newborns to the elderly. As a forensic nurse, it is my duty to ensure the best trauma-informed care is provided to those that have experienced any type of violence, abuse, assault, neglect or trafficking.”
Coping with this type of work is difficult, but critical for these nurses who deal with such heavy work.
When we asked her how she deals with this difficult work, Ashley shares, “… I’ve learned just how important self-care truly is for the mind and body. I’ve acquired two new puppies and have taken up collecting houseplants; you could even say I’ve become a crazy plant lady. I currently have over 70 houseplants! Tending to my plants and being active with my pups has been great for my self-care. It’s also nice to have coworkers, friends and family that are supportive and are always there to lend a listening ear.”
Bonnie Price, DNP, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, AFN-BC, administrative director for community health advocacy
Bonnie Price (pictured above, center) continues to be the face of our forensic nursing team. She also continues to break barriers and make an impact in the Richmond, VA community. In fact, Bonnie was recently recognized by FBI Richmond as their 2020 Director’s Community Leadership Award Recipient. She was also recently appointed to Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s Task Force on Services for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
On the topic of these recent recognitions, Bonnie shares that there is a great deal of important work that still needs to be done.
“One area of particular importance to me, is the availability of forensic nursing services across Virginia,” she says. “Patients who report having been a victim of a sexual assault, domestic assault or child abuse deserve the specialized care provided by a highly trained forensic nurse.”
What’s next for the forensic nursing team?
Bon Secours has plans to expand the current forensic nursing suite, which has one designated exam room and one waiting room, to a new space with two exam rooms, two waiting rooms, a child-friendly area and a training room. It will also include an “oasis” space for our staff to recharge and take time for self-care.