Kittitas Valley Healthcare in Ellensburg is nearing the six-year mark of operating its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program, which is operated in collaboration with local law enforcement, the community’s Abuse Support and Prevention Education Now program and Central Washington University. In every situation, trained staff are involved with the initial report of assault through the victim’s medical examination.
The SANE program is an example of forensic nursing, providing specialized care for victims and perpetrators of intentionally and unintentionally inflicted trauma. Forensic nurses have a specialized knowledge of the legal system and skills in identifying, evaluating and documenting injuries.
Professionals who care for patients through the program cannot predict how many patients they will see in a given month. Sometimes there will be no cases for months, and then three in one weekend. The work requires a commitment to objectivity and a passion for supporting survivors.
“It’s very emotional,” says Pam Clemons, RN and SANE at Kittitas. “One of the most important responsibilities we have is to be objective — but it’s not always easy.”
Objectivity is particularly important for these forensic nurses, who are not just caring for their patients, but also collecting evidence. They often also provide medical testimony in court and consult with legal authorities. Weekends with multiple cases can be especially draining, but the satisfaction of making a difference for somebody in crisis can be almost as overwhelming.
Correction: In last week’s member spotlight feature, the implementation date of the No One Dies Alone program at Providence St. Peter Hospital was incorrectly stated. The program was established 10 years ago.