NORTH CONWAY, NH – As many as 75% of battered women say they would have told a nurse or physician about domestic violence if they had been asked the question. With April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Memorial Hospital seeks to build awareness of the critical role of the medical community in serving the needs of these vulnerable members of our community.
Healthcare providers are often the first, and sometimes the only professionals that recognize injuries sustained by domestic or sexual violence. In our state, we are fortunate to have the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program which helps train and support Registered Nurses to provide the highest quality care to survivors. The SANE Program is housed by the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence (NHCADSV). The Coalition is an umbrella organization for a statewide network of 14 independent member programs committed to ending domestic and sexual violence and stalking. One of these organizations is our local crisis center, Starting Point.
The Coalition receives both state and federal funding. The state now pays for medical examinations of sexual assault victims. Hospitals and the police departments follow guidelines, developed by the Coalition to ensure that victims are treated appropriately, more consistently, in a more timely fashion, with new efficiency, and more dignity and respect legally, socially, medically and emotionally.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program trains nurses to conduct medical and forensic exams. The SANE Nurses have been specially trained to provide comprehensive, uninterrupted care to sexual assault survivors, including conducting the forensic collection of evidence and to provide care with compassion and sensitivity.
Currently, there are 19 NH Hospitals, with Memorial Hospital among them, with certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.
Deciding to seek medical attention after sexual assault does not mean it has to be reported to the police unless you are under the age of 18. Sexual assault exams can be done on an anonymous basis. Going to the hospital is about the patient’s health and safety. Once a victim of sexual assault presents to Memorial Hospital emergency department (ED), the patient is immediately admitted to one of the ED rooms for an evaluation by both the RN and the Provider. Treatment may be essential to ensure that there are no physical injuries requiring immediate care. The patient has the right to refuse the entire exam or any part of it at any time. A Starting Point advocate is notified and comes to the hospital to be with the patient. If the patient requests and gives consent to have the sexual assault evidence collection kit, then a SANE Nurse is called in to the ED.
The SANE Nurse performs the medical and forensic exam following the protocol set forth by the Office of the Attorney General. The examination can last for several hours. The examination includes the medical-forensic history, head to toe physical exam looking for trauma and collection of evidence. When the actual examination is completed, the evidence collection kit is sealed and transferred via chain of custody to the Police Department. At the end of the examination and if needed, the SANE Nurse discusses pregnancy concerns, sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) including HIV, prevention, medications, follow-up testing, and follow-up counseling. Before the patient leaves the hospital, the Nurse examiner, Starting Point advocate as well as the Police Officer involved with the case often discuss safety plan including immediate housing needs.
Our goals of the SANE at Memorial Hospital is to avoid further trauma to all sexual assault survivors in the health care environment with compassion and sensitivity and provide timely medical and forensic examination.
For our local crisis center, call Starting Point at 1-800-336-3795 for 24 hour support or visit them online at www.startingpointnh.org.
For more information, you may also contact the New Hampshire Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence www.nhcadsv.org
To learn more about Sexual Assault Awareness Month, go to http://www.nsvrc.org/saam.
Article written by Charisse N. Hirschfeld, APRN, Certified in Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner- Adult and Adolescent and Pediatrics. Member of the Child Advocacy Coalition. She works at the Walk-In Clinic at Primary Care, Emergency Room and Wound Care Center at Memorial Hospital, No. Conway, NH
About Memorial Hospital
Memorial Hospital is the largest healthcare facility in Mt. Washington Valley,NH. It's a not-for-profit 25-bed Critical Access Hospital located in North Conway, NH, and is a member of the MaineHealth family. Its hospital services include a 24-hour emergency department, surgery center, clinical laboratory, heart health & wellness programs, family birthing center, sleep center, wound care center, oncology, chemotherapy and infusion services and the Miranda Center for Diabetes. Physician practices include primary care and family medicine, women's health, orthopedics and sports medicine. The Merriman House, a 45-bed nursing home specializing in Alzheimer's and other memory disorders, is also located on the hospital campus. Together, our staff and providers are committed to meeting the health needs of the Mt. Washington Valley and surrounding communities by collaborating with community partners in the delivery of accessible, comprehensive, compassionate, and quality health care.