New forensic nursing course will help people who have experienced rape and sexual assault

By Press Office

Queen Margaret University (QMU), Edinburgh is to offer a new forensic practice course for nurses which it is hoped, subject to the outcome of a Test of Change project, will help to build a multi-disciplinary workforce for the future by equipping them to carry out forensic medical examinations and provide evidence for court. The development supports the work of the Scottish Government’s rape and sexual assault Taskforce led by the interim Chief Medical Officer for Scotland.

The Scottish Government is funding 20 places on QMU’s Postgraduate Certificate in Person-Centred Practice: Advanced Forensic Practice (PgC PCP: AFP). This will be the first course of its kind in Scotland and represents over four years of policy, strategy and partnership work to change forensic practice.

This academic award will support any future development of advanced forensic practitioners in Scotland, who as registered nurses, will be qualified to carry out forensic examinations and gather evidence to support criminal investigations and court cases. An important part of this new nursing role will be to skillfully blend the forensic work with person centred care – treating everyone as an unique individual - and working to reduce trauma to the person by looking after their health and wellbeing, and respecting their rights, personhood and dignity.

Jessica Davidson, Senior Clinical Forensic Charge Nurse with the South East Scotland Police Custody and Forensic Examination Service at NHS Lothian, will lead the new course at QMU. Jessica explained: “Undertaking a forensic examination in sexual assault and rape cases requires the examiner to treat each person as an individual and take responsibility for that episode of care from start to finish. What is unique about this role is that the examination involves documenting and interpreting any injuries that the individual may have sustained at the time of the incident.

“The examination team’s work also involves protecting the forensic integrity of the person, the treatment room and the case. They use hard science, clinical observation and the law to take responsibility for the case itself, as well as the individual. Anyone who has been raped or sexually assaulted, or hurt by crime, experiences trauma. It is therefore important that the examiner works to minimise the potential for further trauma and begin the process of supporting recovery.”

Professor Brendan McCormack, Head of the Division of Nursing at QMU said: “The Scottish Government has been pivotal in enabling this course to come to fruition and we are extremely proud to be involved in this developing area of person centred nursing. The course also aims to develop nurses with leadership skills so they can direct and advance this important area of work in Scotland. This will help to ensure better support and health and wellbeing outcomes for individuals who have experienced rape or sexual assault.

“Our Advanced Forensic Practice course will be delivered in partnership with NHS Lothian, the Scottish judiciary, Police Scotland and The UK Association of Forensic Nurses (UKAFN). This means we will have the best experts in Scotland to guide our students through this exciting learning experience.”

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian’s Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals and Executive Lead, REAS and Prison Healthcare said: “The important role of skilled nursing practice in forensic examination is one that NHS Lothian is proud to have helped to pioneer, and we are therefore delighted to be involved in the partnership delivering Scotland’s first postgraduate qualification in its advanced practice.”

Interim Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, said: “The Scottish Government is proud to develop the role of nurse sexual offence examiners in Scotland and to allocate funding for priority places on the new postgraduate qualification course at Queen Margaret University. Having access to this qualification in Scotland supports our ambition to enhance the patient experience through the provision of high quality, person-centred and trauma informed care.” 

Professor Fiona Coutts, Dean of Health Sciences at QMU concluded: “This is a significant step forward in advancing this important specialist area of nursing. The School of Nursing at QMU has world renowned expertise in person-centred care – indeed, it is part of the DNA of our health sciences work. I am pleased that our nursing leadership is influencing the focus on this emerging area of nursing and that the new course aligns with the University’s mission to shape a better world through education, research and innovation.”

Notes to Editor

Course entry: To apply for this course, applicants will already be working in an area of forensic clinical practice where they have experience of gathering forensic evidence and assessing the health and wellbeing of the person in their care at that point in time.


Further information about the work of the CMO Taskforce.

For further media information please contact Lynne Russell, Communications Manager at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh on E:, M: 07711 011239.

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