Twenty Indiana nurses received special certification this week to provide better care for survivors of sexual assault.

The clinical skills lab for adult and adolescent Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, provided hands-on experience working with live patient models in the role of sexual assault victims during the program at the Landsbaum Center for Health Education on the Union Health campus in Terre Haute.

This is the third year for the training hosted by West Central Indiana Area Health Education Center in partnership with the Indiana SANE Training Project and the Indiana Emergency Nurses Association.

“The focus is for patients to get trauma center care at the time,” said Jane Friona of the Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center. “A side benefit of that is if the victim is willing, then evidence can be collected to get the perpetrator caught.”

SANES are health professionals specially training to treat sexual assault victims. They collect evidence and may be called to provide testimony that can be used in a courtroom to prosecute a person accused of violent or abusive acts.

“Certification adds some credibility,” said Jackie Mathis, director of WCI-AHEC, which is located at Indiana State University and serves 11 counties in West Central Indiana.

“We’d love to have at least one person in each facility trained to be on call to take care of someone when they come in for a sexual assault,” Mathis said of the point of the training.

Friona agreed. Patients who go to small or rural hospitals are often encouraged to go on to Indianapolis or a larger hospital for special care, but that can be discouraging and traumatic.

“They’ve already been traumatized,” Friona said, “so the care you provide has to be different than care for a different injury. People who receive this kind of trauma-informed, evidence-based care at the time have much better outcomes and can be much healthier after the assault than people who don’t receive this kind of care.”

The nurses are trained to provide emotional support as well as physical care, she said.

Mathis said about 60 nurses have already gone through the program offered during the past three years. It is costly for nurses and hospitals to provide the certification.

Most of the nurse participants attending this year received the training free of charge through a federal grant received by the University of Southern Indiana and led by Southwest Indiana Area Health Education Center.

The Indiana SANE Training project aims to increase the number of SANEs in the state and ensure the clinical competence of those professionals. The project focuses on rural and underserved communities.

“Funding has always been a barrier to hospitals offering this training to their nurses,” said Angie Morris, the Indiana SANE Training Project Coordinator. “We can fund these nurses to receive this specialized training and set these hospitals up to better serve their communities and the victims who need this care.”

The training uses the curriculum of the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at lisa.trigg@tribstar.com. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.

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