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Forensics Is His Calling

Forensic nurse Dan Sheridan has treated thousands of abuse victims.

As a young reporter, Daniel J. Sheridan knew he was in the wrong business. Covering the night cop beat, Sheridan would often arrive at the scene of an accident or shooting before the paramedics. Dropping his pad and pen, Sheridan would treat the victims as he used to treat wounded serviceman during his time as an Air Force medic. "I would come back to my editor and say, 'The patient's going to live!' And he'd say, 'Yeah, but where's the story?'"

In 1978, Sheridan began working at one of the first battered women hotlines in the United States, started by his wife. "I was a newlywed and she volunteered me," he says. He loved the work and decided to go to nursing school, eventually seeing many more victims of physical abuse as an ER and trauma nurse.

Today, Sheridan is a forensic clinical nurse specialist who came to Hopkins in September 2001. Despite popular opinion, most forensic nurses don't spend their days hunched over corpses or collecting evidence at crime scenes, although Sheridan has done both. Mostly, he treats sexual assault survivors as well as abused women, children and elderly. He is working in the Hospital to develop teams with advanced forensic training within several units. And he makes sure they don't drop the pad and pen while treating patients. "Write down those juicy quotes," the ex-reporter tells nurses. "A court appearance might happen months or years after an injury has healed, and the very detailed note is what's going to help break the cycle of violence."

Known as a forensic specialist abuse investigator, Sheridan is an expert in wound identification and forensic photography and has lectured across the country. His time at Hopkins is split between the ED and his primary appointment with Hopkins' School of Nursing, where beginning this fall, he'll be coordinating a forensic-nursing-focused clinical specialist program.

"Working with abuse survivors doesn't give you instant gratification," says Sheridan. "But every once in a while I'll get a letter or a phone call, saying, 'Remember me? I just wanted you to know I'm safe now.' That keeps you going for a long time."

-Seth Hurwitz



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