The Canadian Forensic Health Corporation, made up of (left to right) Kirstin Simpson, Adrienne Fershau, Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short and Cole Bruce, are changing the game for the forensic nurse occupation. (Submitted)

The Canadian Forensic Health Corporation, made up of (left to right) Kirstin Simpson, Adrienne Fershau, Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short and Cole Bruce, are changing the game for the forensic nurse occupation. (Submitted)

Abbotsford nurses create Canadian Forensic Health Corporation

Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short, Kirstin Simpson, Cole Bruce and Adrienne Fershau teaching new generation

In recognition of National Nursing Week (May 10 to 16), The Abbotsford News published a special tribute in its Thursday, May 6 edition. This is one of the featured stories.

A group of Abbotsford nurses are changing the game for forensic nursing education in Canada.

Tiffany Kafka, Susan Short, Kirstin Simpson, Cole Bruce and Adrienne Fershau formed the Canadian Forensic Health Corporation in 2019 to offer education, practice support, legal consultation and program advisement for those interested in entering the forensic nurse field.

Forensic nurses, for those unfamiliar, provide care to people who have experienced sexual assault, domestic violence and other forms of intentional interpersonal violence.

The Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre is one of only five locations in the province that provide the valuable service. It has been available in Abbotsford since 1999, and the program initially began in Surrey in 1992. Other locations include Nanaimo, Vancouver and Victoria.

RELATED: Abbotsford forensic nursing program reflects on 20 years

The CFHC aims to establish and strengthen the healthcare and community response to intentional violence across Canada including; sexual assault, interpersonal violence, child physical and sexual abuse, assault, maltreatment and neglect, elder abuse, and human trafficking.

Focused areas of service for the group include: forensic examiner education, forensic case consultations and program advisement. To qualify to become a forensic nurse, one must have a nursing degree and be a registered nurse and then do additional training at a school like BCIT. That program sees applicants do 90 hours of classroom time and then spend time with experienced forensic nurses before receiving the certification.

Like everything else on the planet, challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic arose both for the CFHC itself and also forensic nursing in general.

“We had a lot of big plans about classroom work and the delivery of our education,” said Bruce. “We wanted to have hands on lab days where students could come and practice all the techniques we do, but we had to pivot. We had to rewrite everything and the delivery of our education so it could be done all online. It was a big challenge that we didn’t see coming, but overall it’s worked out great.”

Kafka said resiliency and strength are two necessary qualities to excel as a forensic nurse.

“We look for someone who wants to make social change and effect social change – not only in the community but throughout the province and country,” she said. “And someone who can figure out a way to get in and get it done right. And you need to have a big heart and a thick skin – we see some of the worst things that humans will inflict on each other. So to be able to move that aside and deliver the best care that we can for our patients can be a challenge.”

The pair added that it’s also encouraging and makes their jobs easier to see society, as a whole, become more open about trauma and abuse.

For more information on the CFHC, email canadianforensichealth@gmail.com.

RELATED: Evidence of violence: forensic nurses balance health care and justice

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