Reid Health works to expand its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program
April 18, 2022 -- Survivors of sexual assault need providers who can support them through any physical injuries suffered as well as the psychological trauma inflicted. It's a blend of care that requires specialized training to ensure patients get the proper help.
Reid Health is working to meet that need, growing its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) program.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men experience sexual violence involving physical contact during their lives. In addition to the physical toll caused by an assault, there can be psychological trauma as well, leading to post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or suicidal thoughts.
SANEs are nurses who have been through an extensive training program to teach them how to provide comprehensive care to sexual assault survivors.
Reid has five nurses who have completed the adult/adolescent version of the SANE training with another handful starting soon. Shana Evans, RN, SANE-A, has helped lead the way, finishing her training several years ago and then pursuing a professional certification.
The program includes 40 hours of classroom training plus two days with live models to learn how to collect specimens that may be used as evidence. There are also multiple hours spent with different career fields involved in the sexual assault process such as a police ride-along, observing a federal court trial, job shadowing a prosecuting attorney, and spending time at a crime laboratory, STD clinic, victim services/patient advocate center, and more.
"The clinical portion of the training allows you to see the different pieces of the whole process, from the aftermath of the assault to law enforcement building a criminal case," Evans said.
"Not every hospital has staff with this kind of training. It's extremely important for Reid to have this program. It's a great benefit to the community." -- Shana Evans, RN, SANE-A
She and another nurse plan to begin pediatric training this month with others to follow.
"Not every hospital has staff with this kind of training," Evans said. "It's extremely important for Reid to have this program. It's a great benefit to the community."
SANEs provide holistic care to survivors of sexual assault, which can include the collection of items and specimens that could be used as evidence.
"Our job is to make sure the patient is physically OK, first and foremost." Evans said. "That includes a medical exam by a physician, possible testing, and pharmacological interventions. Afterwards, a forensic exam can be completed if the patient wishes, during which photos are taken of injuries and DNA specimens and other items are collected that can be used by law enforcement as evidence.
"We also help patients develop a safety plan and a plan for follow-up care to help them heal physically and emotionally."
Patients can decline any part of a sexual assault exam, and they don't have to file a report with the police. If they would rather, patients can choose to have an anonymous exam, using a sexual assault collection kit that can be stored for up to a year, allowing them to potentially decide to file a report later.
"It's believed the sexual assault numbers in our area have been underreported in the past because no program like this existed in our part of Indiana. We're already seeing an increase in cases over what we had before." -- Ryan Williams, Director of EMS, Forensics, and Trauma Services
Although SANEs are currently only available at the hospital in Richmond, Evans is working to expand the program to Reid's Connersville facility. Until then, patients who choose to have the sexual assault exam must travel to Richmond.
"This is a program that's still growing," said Ryan Williams, Director of EMS, Forensics, and Trauma Services for Reid Health. "It's believed the sexual assault numbers in our area have been underreported in the past because no program like this existed in our part of Indiana. We're already seeing an increase in cases over what we had before."
As April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, if you or someone you know has been the victim of a sexual assault, seek medical attention quickly, don't shower or wash up afterwards, and wear or bring the clothing worn at the time of the assault with you to the Emergency Department.
HIV prevention and pregnancy prevention medications must be administered within 72 hours from the time of the assault to be effective. There are also time limitations for the collection of a sexual assault kit depending on the type of assault that occurred.
If you have any questions about the process, contact the Reid Health Emergency Department at (765) 983-3144.
"We want to support your healing both physically and emotionally, as well as empower you to move forward with your life," Evans said. "We are here for you without judgement. Please allow us the privilege of helping you during a very difficult and painful time."