Forensic Nurse Barbara Rome Sheds Light on Domestic Violence and the Healing Power of Awareness
Barbara Rome is a distinguished nursing professor at Queensborough Community College, a dedicated student mentor, and for more than 30 years a forensic nurse who treats victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.
When asked about the impact of designating October as Domestic Violence Awareness Month, she says, “Put simply, domestic violence is an urgent public health problem that deserves national attention."
She added, "We should all take deep pride in the fact that empathic healthcare practitioners are being recognized for their crucial, tireless work in shedding light on this pervasive issue.”
Rome has worked in emergency rooms treating traumatized victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence, neglect and more. She has led comprehensive assessment procedures, collected evidence, administered medications to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and referred victims to crisis centers.
Such basic health and counseling services for victims of domestic violence were not always available.
“Many years ago, I worked in ER’s that often did not have the resources needed to provide expert medical care specific to victims of domestic abuse,” said Rome, who started teaching at Queensborough in 2011. “It was heartbreaking to see, and it was then I decided to take the training to help these victims. My life has been fulfilling caring for them. I remember when I started, myself and other forensic nurses traveled to many area hospitals. The idea was to bring the care to the patient and not have the patient go to the care.”
Rome was always drawn to the caregiving field.
She grew up in Westchester where she began her nursing career and started treating sexual assault victims and victims of domestic violence at Putnam County Hospital and Northern Westchester Hospital. She moved to the Bronx in 2010.
At Queensborough Rome teaches the third semester clinical sequence: medical/surgical, women’s health, men’s health-- specifically the urinary system--pediatrics and maternity.
The nursing program is extremely competitive and considered one of the best in the country. Hundreds of Queensborough students aspire but fewer than half make it to the clinical sequence. Its Dual/Joint programs are ahead of many colleges, offering continued study at CUNY’s Hunter College, York College, and School of Professional Studies. In the winter and spring semesters, a Candle Lighting ceremony is held to celebrate graduating nursing students representing countries from all around the world.
Since 2012 Rome has been taking her students to Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, Queens, where they give presentations on domestic violence, sexual assault, and sexually transmitted diseases prevention. “It was extremely successful,” said Rome.
“My students conducted extensive research to prepare and afterwards wrote service-learning reflection papers that were informed and insightful. I was enormously proud of them.”
Her schedule is always full. She trains forensic nurses with a 40-hour curriculum program she created that is certified by the National Association of Forensic Nurses and the NYS Department of Health.
She has trained ten new forensic nurses who are now on call, yet she continues to respond occasionally to Northern Westchester Hospital and Putnam Hospital.
As a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), she has been named an expert witness and is sometimes, though more rarely now because of Covid, called to testify before a grand jury in sexual assault cases.
Rome also gives presentations to nursing students at Pace University, Queensborough Community College, Iona College, and Touro College as well as to police officers and other frontline workers. Her lectures are mostly online, and she sometimes goes to hospitals as well.