Nurses Day 'hero': Nursing eye view on our criminal courts

April 2015 Vol 15 (2)

Dunedin’s criminal courts are home turf for Patsy-Jane Tarrant, who recently gained a doctorate in her specialty field of forensic mental health.

Dr Patsy Jane TarrantSouthern District Health Board says Tarrant’s contribution as a clinical nurse specialist in forensic mental health services is significant – not only through her clinical practice but also through the new knowledge she has brought to the area and the support she gives her colleagues to practice in contemporary and evidence-based ways.

The role of the mental health nurse in New Zealand’s criminal courts is the novel topic explored in Patsy-Jane Tarrant’s doctoral thesis.

Tarrant graduated in December last year after completing a doctoral research project that for the first time looked at nursing practice in New Zealand’s criminal courts.

The court liaison nurse (CLN) is the sole health practitioner in the court setting and Tarrant says this means it is under a high level of public and media scrutiny. Her research looked at what it was like to nurse in a practice setting where two conflicting cultures – justice and health – met, and whether this generated tensions for the nurses involved. Her thesis findings provide a baseline for the court nursing role and ongoing development
for nursing practice in this area.

Tarrant – who achieved her doctorate while simultaneously working as a clinical nurse and forensic service leader and raising a family – also represents the Southern DHB on a national committee for women in secure care. This
committee promotes standards of care for women within forensic mental health settings.

She is also currently organising a Court Liaison Nurse Symposium to be held in Dunedin in May. It is the first time in more than10 years that there has been a specific forum for CLNs across New Zealand. Tarrant says the symposium will be an opportunity for both professional development and networking. There are also plans to work on developing a guideline for CLN practice that may possibly be adopted nationally.

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