February 14, 2013
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program at Fort HealthCare began providing confidential services to sexual assault victims on Friday, February 8. Prior to that date, Jefferson County had no facility offering these services. Victims were referred to other hospitals, in more urban communities.
SANE is provided in partnership with People Against Domestic and Sexual Abuse (PADA), Jefferson County’s program for domestic and sexual abuse victims. PADA staff and volunteers will be on-call to respond to the hospital and provide supportive counseling to victims of sexual assault during the SANE exam process. They will also offer ongoing support and advocacy to victims, such as legal advocacy, counseling and community resource advocacy.
Amy O'Neil, executive director of PADA says, "We are very pleased to partner with Fort HealthCare to offer this vital service to victims of sexual assault in our community. Having a SANE program sends a clear message to victims and survivors that our community cares about them."
To operate the program, there are training and equipment expenses. The Fort HealthCare Partners organization chose the SANE program as the recipient of the 2012 Love Lights campaign funds. Through the donation, SANE program and clinical coordinator for emergency services, Sarah Chesmore, RN, was able to obtain the materials needed to perform sexual assault exams.
"Once an exam begins, the nurse is not to leave the room, because it holds evidence of a potential crime," remarks Chesmore. "For that reason, our exam cart is mobile and can be taken to the patient anywhere in the hospital, thanks to the Fort HealthCare Partners donation." The cart is secured with a keypad lock and holds all necessary equipment including: an alternate light source, speculum, swab dryer, high-definition camera, combs, cotton swabs, and all other items needed for the comprehensive exam, so the nurse never needs to leave the patient.
The SANE program is staffed by registered nurses who have received advanced education and instruction in medical-forensic examination of sexual assault victims. They are also equipped to respond to the psychological and emotional trauma that may be present after an assault. Services provided by SANE nurses include: assistance with reporting the crime to police, a comprehensive, sensitive examination of injuries, collection of medical-forensic evidence that may be useful in court, and assistance with the many concerns that follow sexual assault, such as the threat of sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy.
Training requires over 44 hours of classroom education and additional practical experience. Nurses who complete training gain experience with law enforcement personnel, criminal justice procedures, victim advocacy, medical examinations and social services. Through training, nursing staff deliver coordinated, expert forensic and medical care that not only provides comfort and reassurance to the victim, but also safeguards evidence that aids in the successful prosecution of offenders. For more information about the SANE program, contact Sarah Chesmore or visit www.IAFN.org.