Coroners Court Pathway Experience

As a student nurse, there will come a week were we need to do an extra long day to make up our hours. So instead of doing another day on the ward, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to use my extra day wisely and make the most of any opportunities to gain insight into different areas. Obviously, as long as my mentor was happy with this. I checked with my mentor, buddy mentor, the ward manager and the placement team that this was ok. Luckily it was. I decided to arrange a pathway day at the coroners court, which might seem an odd choice to some people. Why would anyone want to see or hear that? For me, as I have seen a few deaths on the ward, I have wondered ‘what happens next.’ I wanted to see what happens after the patient has gone, what their outcome is if it is not a natural death, the whole process. As a qualified nurse, I might get called up to coroners court to give evidence one day. So I would like to see what goes on and prepare myself. I emailed the courts and arranged a day to go. I was excited about going, to learn something new, important and relevant to my future. I was excited until I stepped into the front door to check in…. and then I had a sudden rush of nervousness came over me. I’m not sure why.. It’s like when you’re at the airport going through customs, you know you have nothing to declare but there’s that fear in your mind and you look and act weird because you start to become nervous haha! This is me.

I checked in with a lovely lady, who explained the process, where to sit, what to expect etc and to see her when the court is over for a chat. I was happy to see a couple of other students there too! So I wasn’t alone. We were all told to sit at the back of the room to observe. Warned that sometimes the media come in to take photos and live blogs etc but they aren’t expecting anyone today. Which was my first surprise of the day, I didn’t realise they let the media do this. I would have thought with patient confidentiality they would of been banned but they are freely allowed to do this. Now I am trying to remember why they are allowed to do this, and my mind has gone blank haha. The lady did explain it as it is something we asked her.

I have never been to court before, so this was all new to me. I have only witnessed these things on TV or movies. I didn’t think in a small coronory court like this, they had to swear the oath, and have the choice of the bible, quran etc to place their hand upon whilst doing this. In fact I hadn’t even thought about people using different religions and what they do. This was great to see. The next surprising thing was the coroner used a computer? I know it’s 2017 but I did not expect this either? He would be updating the files etc as the case went on. He was a very nice man, very polite and really respectful of the families feelings and thoughts. He took everything into account and ensured they were happy with the conclusion (verdict) before everything is finalised.

I witnessed a couple of cases today which I won’t go into detail about. For anyone that doesn’t know what coroners court is, it is when someone has passed away, but it was unexpected and not from natural causes. So the coroner has to go through all of the evidence about the individual and hear evidence from the autopsy, consultants, doctors, families, to piece together a picture of how that person has died. So there could be numerous health issues that all contribute to that person passing away. But until this has been concluded there can be no register of death.

It must be so hard for the families to go to coroners court, to have to sit and her all the details about their loved one that has passed away. To hear parts of the autopsy on them. They are grieving for their loved ones and this added on top must be so hard for them to do. The coroner, I feel, in my own opinion, did the court in a really respectful way. He was so mindful of the families and ensured they were ok through out, explaining things in laymans terms for them. He asked questions to the doctors for the families, to help the families understand it all. I thought this was incredible. Probably the most unexpected surprise of the day in fact. I don’t know why, probably again, watching tv etc has made me believe that court people are just strong, firm people. My whole thinking has changed today.

Lastly on today, the cases I had were very weirdly connected to my nursing practice 1 exam /  module!! It was so very strange. They spoke of COPD and renal colic! So, as they were talking medical terms I understood it all, I was so pleased that i’m linking everything and seeing that all the skills from university, and knowledge are really paying off.  All in all a fantastic experience that every student nurse should definitely book into.


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