NEW YORK NURSE: October 2009
by Erin Silk
NYSNA and the NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault (NYSCASA) have teamed up to execute the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training program. The development of the online component of the program was funded by a grant awarded in March of this year.
SANEs are registered nurses who have advanced education in the forensic examination of sexual assault patients and their skill set can often be the difference in bringing an attacker to justice. The grant provided funding for the creation of a 20-hour online program, developed with NYSCASA and four SANE nursing trainers in upstate New York. The training program is hosted through NYSNA’s e-LeaRN™ online continuing education platform. NYSCASA is currently seeking accreditation for this program with the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH).
SANEs provide a unique service to victims of sexual assault by providing both a medical and a forensic examination. While a nurse’s first priority is the well-being of his or her patient, SANEs must concurrently focus on the forensic component of their job. Through careful collection of evidence such as seminal and blood stains, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners can capture proof of the assault that may aid in the criminal prosecution of offenders.
Patients experience one-on-one care from a trained and compassionate nurse, which can decrease the trauma brought on by the assault. In New York State, patients can request a full SANE examination, whether or not they report the assault to law enforcement. Often, patients realize that they are in a safe environment where they can speak freely about the incident. Questions that may be too embarrassing to answer in front of a law enforcement officer or other medical personnel can be confided to a SANE, allowing important data to be documented.
SANEs take patients’ health histories and tend to wounds, but also work to respectfully collect and preserve criminal evidence. While SANEs must approach their job largely from a clinical standpoint, they are also acutely aware of the need to ease a patient’s trauma. For many patients, the examination itself can feel like they are reliving the abuse.
Before the introduction of SANEs, some patients were forced to wait 10 hours or more to be examined. Not only was the wait time harmful to the patient’s dignity and health, but crucial evidence was often lost. SANE programs rely on a pool of skilled professionals who are on call 24 hours a day. Because time is of the essence, they are trained to respond within 30 to 60 minutes of being paged.
The need for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners continues to grow. The program NYSNA helped to create is expected to train an estimated 200 nurses over the next three years. It will include development of five online modules including the information required by NYSDOH for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner certification. The modules will be available only to those enrolled in the program and will address a broad range of categories from the dynamics of sexual assault and forensic examination to post-exposure care and ethical and legal issues. There will also be an opportunity for students to participate in an online discussion forum and respond to questions posed by SANE trainers.