Forensic nurse earns two state awards

Colleen James, a forensic nurse at South Peninsula Hospital, was honored at the Nov. 15 Lights in the Night Awards Banquet in recognition of her substantial and significant contribution to child advocacy in Alaska. This award was given to James at the 2016 Alaska Conference on Child Maltreatment in Anchorage by the Alaska Children’s Alliance, an accredited chapter of the National Children’s Alliance, according to a press release from South Peninsula Hospital.

In 1993, reacting to the need to know the best possible practice for caring for a child patient who had been sexually assaulted, James started Alaska’s first, and longest running, Sexual Assault Response Team, or SART, program in Homer.

“I just felt very passionate that there had to be a better way to take care of victims of crime, of sexual assault, so I started researching and I found out there were a couple of programs in the United States using nurses to do the exams — and we had the first training there in Homer in 1993,” said James.

For more than two years this Homer program provided Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) services to the entire state. In 1995, under James’s leadership, South Peninsula Hospital sponsored the First Statewide Multidisciplinary Child Maltreatment Conference in Alaska, followed by a second conference in 1997.

James was a steadfast supporter to many communities as they began the process of founding Child Advocacy Centers, and was instrumental in the founding of the Alaska Children’s Alliance and of the Child Advocacy Center in Homer. Once establishing the SART training program, she personally took it to Anchorage, Mat-Su, Fairbanks and many other rural locations in Alaska. She has coordinated and taught many multidisciplinary courses and classes in Alaska, nationally and internationally. For more than 10 years Colleen was the Clinical Forensic Nursing Services Coordinator for Central Peninsula Hospital. She served on the State of Alaska Child Death Review Team. She has been a family support specialist at Sprout Family Services, a private non-profit corporation with a core purpose of promoting the healthy development of children.

She also continued to promote the need for evidence-based care of victims of violence to extend to forensic photography, courtroom testimony, and strangulation in the past ten years. She was instrumental in bringing new photographic concepts specific to medical legal documentation not just in Alaska, but also nationally and her methodology was recently highlighted in a forensic technology textbook that trains all levels of forensic specialists, not just nurses. She has been active in the International Association of Forensic Nursing during her career; helping to develop training, certification and the yearly scientific conferences which IAFN has hosted.

James is recently a graduate fellow from the Infant Parent Mental Health Program at the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and remains a primary provider and provides expert opinion on cases from around the state. James continues her work as a forensic nurse for South Peninsula Hospital and child advocacy. Her current projects include planning and funding for a new South Peninsula Forensic Center of Excellence, and she serves as one of the leaders for the hospital’s Trauma-Informed Learning Team, working with co-workers to ensure the entire organization is using trauma-informed practices.

James also was recognized by the Alaska Nurses Association’s annual Heroes in Nursing Awards at the 2016 Nursing Week banquet in June, where she received the Visionary Nurse Award, which specifically recognizes outstanding accomplishments in the area of interpersonal violence prevention, direct services, or advocacy.