Confessions of a Forensic Nurse with Brynishia Robinson
A special thank you to Brynishia Robinson, who took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some of our questions about forensic nursing!
What type of nurse are you?
What are your credentials?
I am a licensed RN in the State of Illinois and a Certified Forensic Nurse
Where do you work?
Alton Forensic Center in Alton Illinois
Why did you decide to become a nurse? And why did you choose your particular field of nursing?
I became a nurse because I have Narcolepsy and have had my fair share of being a patient. During all of my many hospital stays, I had some great nurses and some that were, let’s just say ” less compassionate”. I figured if I could take care of people and make people feel like the “great nurses” made me feel, it would be less people having to deal with those “less compassionate” nurses.
I chose Forensic Nursing because I was a Psychiatric Nurse and saw the reduction in resources for my patients. This often led to many of my patients committing crimes and being sentenced/committed to a Forensic Unit. I understand that mental illness is to blame for just as many of the crimes as the people. I moved on to Forensics because I have a heart and compassion for those who suffer from those invisible illnesses that no one pays attention to. These illnesses cause them to commit crimes like murder, rape, child abuse, child molestation, etc. I treat and fight for the ones that people believe are making excuses and making things up. I recognize that Mental Illness is just as devastating , if not more devastating, than physical illness sometimes because the patient is often unable to truly communicate what they are experiencing.
Tell us about your field of nursing.
I am in the Forensic Nursing field. When many people hear the word “forensic”, they think about crime scenes, CSI, etc. Well I am on the other side of Forensic Nursing. My patients are the ones that actually have committed the crimes. Many of my patients are murderers, attempted murderers, rapists, stalkers, child molesters, etc.
If anyone is considering a career change into forensics, it is imperative that you spend time as a Psychiatric Nurse. Our patients are those that are Not Guilty by Reason of Insanity (NGRI) , Unfit to Stand Trial (UST) or Criminally Insane. They have committed violent crimes and have some sort of Mental Illness component (otherwise they would be in Prison or Department of Corrections (DOC). Find yourself a State Hospital because many of them have some form of Forensics. Google “Illinois State Hospitals” or whatever state you are in to get started.
I am on the admission unit, so all of my patients typically come in from jail or prison. I have 22 male patients on my unit and I work with 4-5 Security Therapy Aides (STA). I make sure that the unit remains safe. Often times, we have patients that are psychotic and attempting to attack staff or their peers and we have to call a “code red”, which is where all available staff in the building comes to help you. We often have to use physical holds to stop the patient from hurting themselves or others, Chemical Restraints (mostly antipsychotics and benzodiazepines), or place them in Seclusion or Restraints. There is always a Physician on Campus for orders. During the evening, I pass medications (medical and psychiatric) to all of my patients.
What do you love about your job?
I love when I see a patient after the medication has began to work. Often when they come in, they are extremely delusional, or psychotic.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging part of my job is to not take things personal. When people are mentally ill, they say things and do things that can hurt you. I have to always remember that they are here and my patients for a reason and they need my help. Which is sometimes difficult to remember when they are throwing chairs at you.