MEDICAL SPOTLIGHT: Health First Nurses Turn to Training to Better Help Sexual Assault Victims

By  //  April 15, 2021

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SANE course empowers nurses to care for sexual assault patients

Committed to compassionate care, Health First hosts a conference for two dozen caregivers — providing them with additional resources to help these patients in the aftermath of such a trauma. Kellie Chapman, Health First’s Clinical Education Specialist for Emergency and Trauma, conducted the conference along with Summer Sievert, BSN, MSN and SANE-A. (Health First image)

Committed to compassionate care, Health First hosts a conference for two dozen caregivers — providing them with additional resources to help these patients in the aftermath of such a trauma.

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – Plenty of nurses will tell you — they went into the field because it is their passion to help people. It’s not just a job, but a calling.

And each patient is different. Nurses keep that in mind when caring for each individual, tailoring that experience to each person’s unique situation.

Being able to tenderly assist sexual assault victims was something Health First Registered Nurse Michelle Capps considered crucial. Because it’s not just about healing the body, but helping the soul navigate the aftermath of a horrific crime.

“Patients often come into our facilities for a multitude of reasons, and at times they are of a sensitive nature,” Michelle said. “I want to be involved in providing individuals in these unfortunate instances with the best care I can. I feel as though cases like these are so unique and require nurses who have been trained in not only the physical process of the exam, but the physiological aspect, as well.”

Michelle, who joined Health First as a Health Unit Coordinator in 2008 before becoming a nurse, and 23 colleagues from Central Florida hospitals took part in a recent weeklong educational session. The Adult/Adolescent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training was provided at Health First’s Connections Center.

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While caring for sexual assault victims may be a somewhat unique occurrence for nurses, sexual assault, unfortunately, happens frequently. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center’s most recent statistics, 21.3% of women in the U.S. (1 in 5) have been sexually assaulted. About 2.6% of men have been sexually victimized as well.

Only 25% of those assaults are reported to police.

For those who do seek the help of law enforcement in the immediate aftermath, forensic exams are likely to follow. This helps to document trauma from the assault and collect evidence that could be used in a criminal trial, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The exam includes taking a medical history; documenting scratches, bruises and other injuries on a body map diagram; collecting DNA swabs to be processed; and other tests to be used in court.

HEALTH FIRST REGISTERED NURSE Michelle Capps attended the recent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training held at Health First’s Connections Center. “Cases like these are so unique and require nurses who have been trained in not only the physical process of the exam, but the physi­ological aspect, as well,” she said. (Health First image)

Helping to soften that experience in any way possible for these survivors — and teach nurses the skills they need for such a delicate situation — is what brought the recent training session to Health First. Kellie Chapman, Health First’s Clinical Education Specialist for Emergency and Trauma, conducted the conference along with Summer Sievert, BSN, MSN and SANE-A.

“As nurses, our Number One priority is the care and well-being of our patients,” Kellie said. “The SANE course empowers nurses to care for sexual assault patients with knowledge of the process and technical skills to provide optimal care.”

The course also alleviates questions, concerns and doubts when it comes to caring for assault victims by connecting nurses with subject matter experts. Health First nurses are always actively engaged in education that improves their practice and delivery of care to the community.

Steps to SANE certification include:
■ Education: A nurse must have a registered nursing (RN) license.
■ Experience: A nurse must have two years of clinical experience as an RN or at a higher level, such as nurse practitioner.
■ Training: Nurses are expected to complete 300 hours of SANE clinical skills training.
■ Testing: To become SANE certified, nurses must pass a certification exam.

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The course was an eye-opener for Michelle, who hopes to help these patients regain their sense of control in the aftermath of such trauma. She said the biggest lesson she learned was how to understand the victim’s state of mind — and how to thoughtfully work with them during the exam.

“I was also astonished by the number of additional resources that one case may require,” Michelle said. “Learning the related laws was very beneficial, as well.”

Michelle feels confident that the tools provided can help her best serve those who need her after such a horrific experience.

“Sometimes it’s good to just take a step back and say to yourself, ‘OK, so I may be having a bad day, but it’s going to be a bad rest of their life if we don’t handle it the right way,’ ” Michelle said.

She added words of encouragement for the understandably shaken victims of sexual assault.

“When you get worried about courtroom testimony and going through what you did, all you’re doing is telling the truth,” she said. “You did the best you could, and that’s all anybody could ever expect.”

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