Autopsy Video Brings Penn State Nursing Forensics Course ‘to Life’

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Penn State’s online Nursing Forensics certificate offered by the College of Nursing and delivered online by the World Campus prepares registered nurses for the growing specialist role of forensic nurse.

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The course provides anyone working in the forensics field with the skills to identify, collect and preserve evidence that will help to decide whether a crime has been committed and to provide it to law enforcement.

When an abused victim dies, a forensic nurse is often involved in collecting evidence for the legal case. To help prepare these nurse specialists, Penn State’s Forensic Evidence Collection and Preservation course will now include a first-of-its-kind video of an autopsy. The course is part of the Nursing Forensics certificate offered by the College of Nursing and delivered online by the World Campus.

“The course provides anyone working in the forensics field with the skills to identify, collect and preserve evidence that will help to decide whether a crime has been committed and to provide it to law enforcement,” said Maureen C. Jones, Penn State forensic nursing instructor, who led the development of the video project. “The video of an autopsy is a vital component of the course.”

Partners in the project include Penn State Public Media, College of Nursing, World Campus, and Mount Nittany Medical Center, where the autopsy was performed.

During filming, student Noelle Roman witnessed the autopsy firsthand. “It is the most interesting class I’ve taken in nursing,” said Roman, a registered nurse and certified school nurse at Schick Elementary School in Montoursville. “The autopsy pulled together everything we were learning in class.”

That’s the goal, said Mindy McMahon, Penn State Public Media lead producer of creative services. “This is a groundbreaking project. We used five cameras to bring the autopsy ‘to life’ for online students and give them the best educational experience possible.”

In the course, students explore the scenario of a woman in an abusive marriage and follow her to the hospital, through her abusive relationship, to her untimely death. Before watching the autopsy, students will participate in a pre-video preparation program. A debrief session will follow the autopsy video.

“It’s sad to have this need, but exciting to be able to give students an opportunity to be knowledgeable about what’s involved in an autopsy,” said Alicia Swaggerty, instructional designer, World Campus Learning Design. “The video is the final piece of the course where all of the forensics roles are tied together.”

For information about the Nursing Forensics certificate, visit the website.

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