Defense Date


Graduation Date

Spring 2012


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





School of Nursing

Committee Chair

L. Kathleen Sekula

Committee Member

Khlood Salman

Committee Member

Allison Del Bene Davis


Community nursing, Contamination, Environmental health, Forensic nursing, Nursing, Public health



The purpose of this study was to provide an understanding of the self-perceived physiological and psychosocial needs of persons living in communities which have been exposed to environmental contamination, and to provide an understanding of how forensic nurses can be utilized in these communities.


This study was conducted to provide an opportunity for forensic nurses to advance their profession by finding ways that they can move beyond their traditional roles. Dixon and Dixon's Integrative Environmental Health Model was the theoretical framework.

Research Design

This cross-sectional triangulated study used quantitative and qualitative methods. The Community Environmental Health and Rights Assessment Tool (CEHRAT) was used to elicit quantifiable responses. One-on-one qualitative interviews were then conducted.

Participants and Data Collection and Analysis

Questionnaires were completed by 198 participants (109 from Ellenville, New York, and 89 from South Plainfield, New Jersey). For the qualitative phase, six residents were interviewed.

All persons who completed the questionnaire received a $5 gift card and an environmental resource pamphlet. The quantitative data was analyzed using SPSS. The qualitative data was managed with Weft QDA.


The majority of participants in each community were `Somewhat satisfied' with the environmental information they receive (32.4% for Ellenville and 53.5% for South Plainfield). Two-thirds of the respondents in both communities said they know little or nothing about environmental contamination in their community. Over ninety-six percent of respondents indicated that they would trust nurses to provide environmental information if the nurses were experienced in such matters. Over ninety-eight percent of respondents stated they would trust forensic nurses. Eighty-five percent of respondents wanted educational information so they could protect themselves from contamination. The qualitative data revealed themes that buttressed the quantitative results: a lack of knowledge; the negative impact of politics, economics, and personal finances on remediating contamination; the need for outside help; and the belief that nurses can help affected communities by providing education, treatment, and investigation.


Forensic nurses can benefit communities that have been environmentally contaminated. In addition to advancing their profession, forensic nurses can be catalysts for change.