Imagine sitting in the crowded waiting room of the local hospital’s Emergency Department . Around the room you see children with fever or crying of pain, others with lacerations needing to be sutured, some holding ice packs on their sprains, strains or possible fractures and ambulances bringing life-threatening injuries or conditions needing to be seen quickly. All certainly need medical attention, and depending on the severity of their condition, will be seen as treatment areas become available.
You, however, are there because you have been sexually assaulted. You may not have any outwardly visible trauma as you wait for an exam which will take a long time to complete, so others are taken for treatment before you.
This was the case in the Emergency Department where I worked in the late 80‘s – early 90‘s when I first became interested in Forensics and the specialty of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. The Emergency Department physicians and nurses accompanying them were reluctant to begin an exam which they knew would be very time-consuming, often taking them away from other patients for more than an hour, and because they did not do sexual assault exams that often,they were unfamiliar with the process. Having to testify in court was another issue.
We know that the physical trauma and the mental trauma can be devastating to a victim of sexual assault so these patients need compassionate care in a timely manner not only for their well being but also for effective evidence collection. Enter the Specialty of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. The SANE is there for one patient; the victim of the assault. The SANE is an RN with advanced training in sexual assault, evidence collection, packaging, and maintaing the chain of evidence. Additionally there is a Board Certification that is administered by the International Association of Forensic Nursing that validates, through extensive testing, the knowledge and proficiency of the nurse examiner and designates the nurse as a SANE-A ; an experienced nurse in the examination of adults and adolescents.
The SANE together with the Victim Advocate in a secure location with the equipment and supplies needed, are able to provide the patient the confidential, compassionate, timely exam in a quiet, comforting environment. Although this is only the beginning of a long road of healing for the victim, the SANE strives to ease the fear and anxiety in the initial medical and physical exam phase of this process to help give control back to the patient.
I am proud to be a Forensic nurse; a SANE-A.
Judy Bednar, RN, MSN, SANE-A