JOHNSON CITY (Jan. 23, 2019) – In an effort to decrease the number of unreported sexual assaults in the Appalachian Highlands, the College of Nursing at East Tennessee State University will use a $1.4 million federal grant to train more sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE nurses) and expand patient access to sexual assault evidentiary exams.
Funding for the Health Education Learning Program for Sexual Assault in Rural Appalachia or “HELP SARA” was awarded by the Health Resources and Services Association and will be used to provide education to the public about sexual assault and what services are available, as well as certification training for SANE nurses at five ETSU nurse-managed clinics in Johnson, Hancock and Washington counties and at Ballad Health hospitals located in rural areas.
“The grant in itself will give people in rural communities access to sexual assault nurses not only in emergency rooms, but in primary care clinics, so the fear of having to go to an emergency room in Johnson City or Kingsport that’s far away from home will not happen,” said Dr. Patti Vanhook, associate dean for practice and community partnerships in ETSU’s College of Nursing.
The work being done through this grant is expected to increase reporting of sexual assaults as well as prosecution rates in Northeast Tennessee. As more SANE certified nurses are trained, the same sexual assault evidentiary exam offered in emergency rooms will be available at local primary care clinics in rural and underserved communities.
“The exam is available not just to women, but children, men or anyone,” Vanhook said.
Through the grant, the ETSU College of Nursing, under the leadership of Dr. Judy McCook, will implement an innovative educational model for SANE training with a goal of training and certifying a minimum of 21 SANE nurses during the three-year grant period. During that same timeframe, Vanhook said she aims to establish a telenursing infrastructure to help establish better support for the area’s SANE nurses as well as a forensic nurse examiner certificate program.
“It will be designed as a basic course for those new to the field of forensic nursing and the specialized area of caring for sexual assault patients in the SANE role,” Vanhook explained.
Vanhook said the grant would not be possible without the support of many community agencies across the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee who provided letters of support and agreed to serve as partners.
“The grant will allow the College of Nursing to increase the number of registered
nurses, advance practice registered nurses and forensic nurses trained and certified
as sexual assault nurse examiners on local, regional and state levels. They will provide
patient-centered, trauma-informed care in underserved Appalachia and rural communities.”