Special Spotlight Insert
counsels on violent death
recent news account describes a four-year-old boy who witnessed
the stabbing death of his mother. That child is typical of the
patients Paul T. Clements, Ph.D., sees daily.
is board certified as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse
and is a distinguished fellow in the International Association
of Forensic Nurses, so named because of his work with children
who witness violence, crime and sudden death.
often said I could write a book titled, Why Did My Dad
Kill My Mom? said Clements, a forensic nurse. The
question was actually posed to him by a three-year-old who witnessed
his father shoot his pregnant mother in the stomach.
news accounts fade away, there are those left in the aftermath,
said Clements, referring to his work as living forensics.
Since 1993, Clements has worked with more than 1,000 families
of murder victims.
to sudden traumatic death is very different from death due to
illness. Although the family of a cancer patient may not believe
today is the day their loved one will die, it is vastly different
than having a loved one ripped from your life violently,
loss is loss, he said. Similarities and differences exist regarding
how people cope with the death of a loved one. Gender,
ethnicity and culture all play a part, he said. Clements
said that when working with murder victims, its important
for them to understand that no matter what, no one has the right
worked with a family of a murdered gang victim. Even though
they knew he was engaged in high-risk behavior they needed to
know that no one has the right to take someone elses life.
The families are victimized again by the stigma associated with
the circumstances of their childs death, he said.
nurses are at the forefront in addressing healthcare response
to violence, said Clements. These are the people who have
changed the way rape kits are taken, for example, he said,
adding that they also provide victims with resources and referral
and are called upon to testify in court.
who came to the UNM College of Nursing in January 2001, earned
a Ph.D. in psychiatric forensic nursing from the University
of Pennsylvania in 2000, and a masters in child and family
psychiatric nursing from the same institution in 1993.
certification as a clinical nurse specialist in child and adolescent
psychiatric and mental health nursing.
joining the UNM faculty, Clements was a clinical lecturer at
the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing from 1994-2001
as well as adjunct faculty at Wilmington Colleges Division
worked with adolescents in a psychiatric hospital in Delaware
while earning the graduate degree in nursing. It was there that
he had his first experiences with both victims and youthful
diminutive in stature, children are not limited in their emotional
capacity. What may differ, however, is the way children think
about the victim, feel about the murder and express grief,
and young people are both victims and perpetrators, said Clements.
One patient was a 16-year-old who beat his girlfriend unconscious.
boy told me that his father and grandfather before him both
beat their wives and he thought they were doing the women a
favor and keeping them out of trouble. He said that while his
friends mothers were out having affairs and bring home
AIDS, his mother was at home and dinner was on the table,
treatment Clements helped the young man to understand that individuals
have the right to make their own decisions. He needed
to see what it was like from the other persons perspective.
Also, he needed to understand that its hard enough to
run our own lives without emotional exhaustion from trying to
control someone else, he said.
from bad decisions adults make, said Clements, but they can
come through it positively. His greatest rewards are the success
stories. Every kid I ever saw who was able to reinvest
in life, go on to college and make something out of his life
after experiencing a horrible death, trauma and depression,
that makes it all worthwhile, he said.