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Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing

Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing

Established to support people who experience violence across the lifespan, the Texas A&M Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing facilitates interprofessional collaborations to offer unsurpassed research and training opportunities by providing forensic nursing education and outreach for nurses, other medical professionals, law enforcement, attorneys, social workers and advocates.

What is Forensic Nursing? 

Victims of violence—those who endure sexual assault, intimate partner violence, neglect or any other form of intentional injury—deserve and require patient-centered, trauma-informed care. Forensic nurses are professionally trained to treat these victims as patients, keeping them and all they have endured at the center of that treatment.  

Texas Evidence Collection Protocol 

In an unprecedented, joint effort with the Office of the Texas Attorney General, faculty with specialized training and education in forensic nursing at Texas A&M College of Nursing formalized updates to the  Texas Evidence Collection Protocol (TXECP) . This document serves as the standardized guide for physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses, nurses, sexual assault nurse examiners and fellow health care professionals to use in their mission to provide trauma-informed, evidence-based and patient-centered care across the entire state of Texas. Learn more about the TXECP with our webinars.

Vision, Mission and Goals

The Vision of the center is to be a nationally recognized, well-funded and endowed research, education, and outreach center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing.

The Mission of the center is to improve health outcomes of those affected by violence and disaster. The center leads the nation in developing and implementing interdisciplinary, trauma-informed strategies to prevent and address violence across the lifespan through research, academic programs, continuing education and outreach.

The Goals of the center are to:

  • Educate Texas nurses to provide trauma-informed care to violence victims;
  • Establish partnerships with community stakeholders to stop cycles of violence;
  • Advance forensic nursing knowledge through research; and
  • Develop leaders via a Master of Science in nursing with a forensic nursing focus.

Current & Proposed Projects

The Texas A&M Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing, as designated by the Texas A&M Board of Regents on August 8, 2019, establishes a first of its kind resource for registered nurses, emergency health care professionals, physicians assistants, law enforcement officers and others that interface with some of our state's most vulnerable populations.

Our forensics team is leading the charge is sustaining positive momentum and impactful research through strategic partnerships, community outreach and engagement, and unique simulations to educate, train and equip nurses to provide trauma-informed, patient-centered care.

  • Deliver continuing professional education through web-based platforms, instructor-led trainings, special-topics workshops, and experiential learning (simulation) throughout Texas.
  • Assure access to highly qualified sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) through training directed at nurses working in rural and underserved areas.
  • Implement a web-based statewide Community of Practice to underwrite support for and consultation to forensic nurses in Texas.
  • Create and disseminate academic lectures for Texas A&M students and community-focused newsletters on interpersonal violence topics such as human trafficking and elder abuse.
  • Assist governmental agencies to provide impactful activities to address interpersonal violence, including providing input on pending legislation.
  • Support the community by delivering care to those experiencing violence and abuse.
  • Subject to state and federal funding, develop telehealth innovations to support health care providers to provide evidence-based, trauma-informed care to patients in rural and underserved area requiring treatment related to interpersonal violence.

About Tex-TRAC

The Texas Teleforensic Remote Assistance Center (Tex-TRAC) was established with federal grant funding from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to plan, develop and pilot test a statewide sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) telehealth program to serve rural and underserved communities in Texas.

When a nurse at a partnering hospital conducts a sexual assault examination, they will have access to a team of forensic nurses on-call 24 hours a day from a remote location. The expert nurse provides support and guidance throughout the entire exam creating a team-based approach to trauma-informed, patient-centered care.

The patient and nurse at the hospital are able to see, hear and visit with the expert using specialized video-teleconferencing equipment developed specifically for the health care setting to ensure privacy, confidentiality and expert care delivery.

Learn more about the Tex-TRAC program and how this initiative strives to support survivors of intentional violence and the health care teams providing care.

Texas Evidence Collection Protocol (TXECP)

Updated in an unprecedented, joint collaboration with the Office of the Attorney General, this document serves as the standardized guide for health care professionals across the state of Texas.

Additional Resources

  • Speaker Request
    • Faculty and staff provide instructional trainings, serve as guest speakers and support continuing education in a variety of ways. To request a member of our team for your next event, please complete the Speaker Request form found here.

COVID-19 Resources for Forensic Nurses


We have received numerous inquiries about addressing forensic nursing concerns related to providing care to patients with forensic health care needs. We encourage you to talk with your supervisor, compliance officer and risk manager to determine the best way to proceed when forensic patients present.

Ultimately, it is our role and responsibility as forensic nurses to ensure the safety of our patients, ourselves and others. This starts with ensuring the following to the best of our ability:

  • Implementation of effective screening processes for all patients, visitors and advocates for COVID-19.
  • Limiting visitors. Consideration of the use of telehealth for advocate interaction with patients.
  • Ensuring the use of PPE for patients that screen positive for COVID-19
  • Ensuring the use of PPE for any health care worker or social worker interacting with a patient with a positive COVID-19 screen
  • Consideration of guidelines that exempt health care or social workers that meet the following criteria from caring for a lab-confirmed COVID-19 patient or patient with a positive screen:
    • Pregnant
    • Breastfeeding
    • Immunocompromised
    • Over 60 years of age

Things forensic nursing teams may wish to consider:

  • Should the forensic nurse call-in requirements be modified during the pandem?
    • Consider allowing forensic nurses to be on-call and “triage” patients via telephone and come in for acute examinations only.
    • Consider health histories of forensic nurses (pregnancy, breastfeeding or immunocompromised status).
  • Are there examinations that may be deferred to a later time?
  • Can patients who report non-acute sexual assaults and who are safe, be examined at a later date?
  • Should sexual assault examinations be completed in the emergency department or another area?

Current CDC recommendations are as follows:

  • Utilize stringent hand hygiene practices for everyone, including patients
  • Droplet precautions should be followed. These include:
    • Donning gloves always.
    • Donning gown & surgical mask if potential for droplet contact
    • Masks do not need to be N-95.
    • If patient does not describe having a cough, fever or runny nose – forensic nurse should use stringent hand hygiene practices and don gloves.
    • If patient is coughing, has a fever or recently had a fever, or runny nose – forensic nurse should don a surgical mask with a face shield, gown and gloves.
    • Anal swabbing does not aerosolize sample.
    • Social distancing of at least six feet should occur as much as possible during the history, examination and documentation of all patient encounters. The forensic nurse should continue to utilize patientcentered, trauma-informed practices while explaining the reasons for droplet precautions.
    • Housekeeping – Follow standard droplet protocol for cleaning of examination areas.

Below are links to resources you may find useful as we all adapt to our current situation in providing care to forensic patients. It is our hope that your facility and forensic team can use these resources to make informed decisions in supporting this vulnerable population.

Thanks and gig 'em,

Chelsea Knutson, MSN, BS, RN, CNE, CA-SANE
Program Manager, Forensic Outreach
College of Nursing, Texas A&M University Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing

Continuing Education Courses

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas A&M University is limiting visits to campus. When available, previously scheduled events will be hosted virtually via ZOOM where participants are able to connect via smartphone, tablet or computer. Registration for events is still required, even if free of charge, in order to provide connection information closer to the event date.

To support nurses seeking specialized training, we offer continuing education courses in forensic nursing with an emphasis in multidisciplinary approaches to prepare nurses and fellow health care professionals, law enforcement, social workers and advocates.


Stay informed

Health Resources & Services Administration Grantee Application

The application period is currently closed. 

The Texas A&M University Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing received federal grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to provide specialized training in forensic nursing free of charge to approved grantees that:

  1. currently live and work in rural, underserved areas; or
  2. serve patients that live and work in rural, underserved areas. 

We are seeking qualified applicants motivated to expand their knowledge, resources and training through this grant funded opportunity. If accepted, grantees will receive a reimbursement* for accommodations and course costs. 

Please note the courses that qualify for reimbursement are as follows:

  • 40 hour Adult/Adolescent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Training
    • Meets and exceeds standards for Texas State SANE certification
  • Adult Sexual Assault Simulation
    • Gain all 15 pelvic examinations needed for Texas State SANE certification and experience with 4 simulated forensic medical examinations, 2 of which count toward Texas State Certification
  • Mock Testimony Simulation
    • Gain all 16 courtroom hours needed for Texas State SANE certification

Grantees will also have access to our Community of Practice, where they can continue to grow in their journey with access to resources designed to support them in achieving their career goals including networking for hospital preceptorship sites and preparation for national certification.

The application period has now closed.

*Reimbursement for course costs and accommodations (including per diem food, hotel, and mileage) not to exceed $5,000.


Physical address:

8447 Riverside Parkway, Bryan, TX 77807
Health Professions Education Building, 3rd Floor



Faculty & Staff

Stacey Mitchell, DNP, MBA, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, DF-AFN, FAAN

Director, Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing
Clinical Associate Professor, Texas A&M University College of Nursing
Stacey Mitchell's bio »


Clinical Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University College of Nursing

Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, CP-SANE, SANE-A, FAAN

Associate Professor, Texas A&M University College of Nursing
Nancy Downing's bio »

Stacy Drake, PhD, MPH, RN, AFN-BC, D-ABMDI

Associate Professor, Texas A&M University College of Nursing

Kimberly Zemanek, PhD, MEd

Associate Program Director, Forensic Nursing

Chelsea Knutson, MSN, RN, CNE, CA-SANE

Program Manager for Forensic Outreach

Cynthia Hurt, CAP

Senior Administrative Coordinator l

Support the Center

Forensic nursing provides specialized care needed across the state and nation. Supporting ongoing research, community outreach programs and expansion of educational opportunities ensures the Texas A&M Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing provides innovative instruction, evidence-based practice and state-of-the-art learning environments for those seeking to provide trauma-informed, patient-centered care.

Save lives through education and outreach. Plan your financial gift.

Patty Rabel

Patty Rabel, CFRE

Senior Director of Development, Texas A&M College of Nursing

Phone: 979.436.0175  |