Registered nurses asking what they can do for their community should consider joining Statesboro Regional Sexual Assault Center and the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs) to help victims of sexual assault, said ElDonna Hilde, coordinator for the local group.
The Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault conducted a four-day course recently in Statesboro at Georgia Southern’s School of Nursing for an RN to become a sexual assault nurse examiner. There were 15 RNs from across the state taking this 40-hour didactic course plus a 40-hour clinical course.
Hilde said three local RNs took the course – Ercia Sicia, Rebecca Brown and Ursula Pritham. They will join forces with the other SANEs in giving back to their community.
Hilde said: “A victim of sexual assault needs to be taken care of and our role is to deliver compassionate, competent care to all we encounter without losing sight of our professional boundaries.”
A forensic nurse is a nurse with specialized training in evidence collection, criminal procedures, legal testimony expertise, and more. They become a liaison between the medical profession and that of the criminal justice system.
“I have 10 nurses who are available 24/7 and work for the victims free of charge, and our job is primarily evidence collection,” Hilde said.
A SANE/forensic nurse assesses and evaluates injuries that a victim has suffered; locates, collects and packages forensic evidence relevant to the crime, and provides information or referrals regarding the victim’s continued care.
Even after a forensic medical examination is completed, the numbers will not always translate into actual cases in court. Victims may change their minds, police may be unable to catch the alleged offender or the victims may move or otherwise not be located. It often takes two years for a case to reach the courtroom, and most end in negotiated pleas.
Richard Mallard, the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney, said he supports the SANE program.
“SANEs are specially trained to know what to obtain during the forensic medical examination to better serve the victims of sexual assault.”
Christie Perry, executive director of the Sexual Assault Center, said that traditionally, forensic medical examinations were done in a local emergency room.
“However, this has changed as most centers are now community based are better able to reach out into the community to serve all victims of sexual assault, all ages, all races, male and female,” she said.
Perry also expressed how fortunate the center is to have cooperation from a number of community resources in providing victim services, most notably the use of Dr. James Hiller’s office for completing forensic exams.
“This provides an environment that is much more private and sensitive, and it removes the patient from the chaos of the Emergency Room,” Perry said.
Law enforcement prefers a community environment, as well.
“We have a collaborative working relationship with the forensic nurses in providing compassionate care and service to the sexual assault victims, as they have already endured the most horrific incident imaginable,” said Capt. Todd Hutchens of the Bulloch County Sheriff’s Office.
RNs interested in providing forensic service to the community, may contact Hilde or Perry at (912) 489-6060.