This is one of the few areas in nursing where you have the luxury of time to spend with the patient which is missing from most of healthcare today.
Hope G. Miller was a fan of the television show “Quincy, M.E.” as a kid. The 1970s series starred Jack Klugman as a medical examiner who worked with police to solve crimes. “I said at age 9 I wanted to be a forensic pathologist,” Miller said.
Alas, her professional path wasn’t destined to emulate the tidy contours of scripted television. But it was no less rewarding.
Miller has worked in nursing for more than 20 years, mostly in Indiana and in Texas. While working in the emergency department, she undertook the training to become a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). “Emergency room nursing was my first love, but SANE nursing is my passion,” Miller said. “We don’t do anything curative, per se, but what we do offer is valuable if it’s done well, if it’s patient-centered, if it’s trauma-informed, if it’s administered with mindfulness and empathy. It’s not something you learn overnight. It takes being able to hyper-focus on the person in front of you. That’s one of the things I like about it. This is one of the few areas in nursing where you have the luxury of time to spend with the patient which is missing from most of healthcare today. Being present in that space with the patient and having time to build trust is imperative to the care that SANE/Forensic nurses provide.”
To advance her career in the field, Miller began exploring her options for an advanced degree in forensic nursing. She knew she wanted an online program that would offer flexibility of schedules, and found Fitchburg State. In addition to its format, she was attracted to the program’s affordable price and solid reputation.
“The fact that so many of the faculty are well-known in the field and have been doing this a long time was definitely a plus,” Miller said.
Miller’s studies were disrupted by COVID-19, but she wasn’t going to give up on her goals. The program was a lot of work, she said, but inspired her to grow. She also enjoyed meeting other students and the networking opportunities that followed, including in-person encounters at conferences.
Miller is currently working in a sexual assault treatment center in Indiana, putting her degree and her philosophy of patient care to work. “When I have a patient, when that person is in front of me, they’re my only thought,” she said. “What we offer our patients is something you’re probably not going to get under any other condition of nursing. My hope is, when they leave, they know it wasn’t their fault, and that somehow, they feel empowered in some way to move forward with their life. Justice and healing looks different for every person. If I can maybe give them a tiny bit of foundation for those things to happen, then I’ve done my job.”
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022 edition of Contact magazine.