New program to improve access, health outcomes for sexual assault survivors

$1.5 million grant will nearly double the number of nurses in Minnesota trained to provide care after sexual assault

November 2, 2021
Brett Stursa

back of SANE patient and nurse

Sexual assault survivors in Minnesota and around the country will have improved treatment access and health outcomes, after the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) awarded a three-year, $1.5 million grant to increase the number of forensic nurses.

The purpose of the Advanced Nursing Education-Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program is to expand the availability of sexual assault nurse examiners (SANEs) to rural and under-resourced communities to improve care provided to victim-survivors, according to Professor Carolyn Porta, PhD, RN, SANE, FAAN, who is the principal investigator.

SANEs are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of a patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse.

“Victim-survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence have potential for better and healthier outcomes, whether children or adults, if they receive trauma-informed care, including SANE services,” says Porta, noting that trauma-informed care recognizes and responds to the signs, symptoms and risks of trauma to better support the health needs of patients.

Not enough SANEs to meet the need

The SANE workforce in Minnesota reflects national trends in that there are not enough SANEs to meet the needs of the population. This issue is exacerbated by a lack of certified SANEs in rural and underserved areas and overall high turnover rates.

In Minnesota, there are approximately 100 practicing SANE-trained nurses. The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) shows that only 48 nurses are SANE certified, and only seven of those serve outside of the Twin Cities metro area.

“This is nowhere near the workforce needed to ensure access to SANE services,” says Porta.

The new program will train approximately 90 nurses as SANEs and an additional 45 current SANEs are expected to be supported toward certification.
The project includes partnering with Minnesota State University-Mankato and expert forensic nurses from across the state to ensure broad recruitment efforts are successful.

In addition to collaborating with local and state partners, they will be partnering with the other Advanced Nursing Education-Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners programs across the country.

“The need in Minnesota is reflective of what we see nationwide. On average about 20-25% of U.S. hospitals have SANE services available according to our voluntary database, with no mandatory SANE database repository to rely on for accurate data,” says Jennifer Pierce-Weeks, IAFN chief executive officer. “We have already seen dramatic growth in the number of didactically and clinically educated, as well as board certified SANEs as a result of the HRSA funding.”

Trauma-Informed Care Community of Practice

In addition to increasing the number of SANEs and certified SANEs, the program includes developing and delivering a Trauma-Informed Care Community of Practice that promotes competency, retention and wellbeing.

The community of practice will include didactic courses, robust clinical skills simulations, virtual training modalities, practical learning experiences, a mentorship framework and multidisciplinary case review and team building.

“Accessing meaningful forensic nursing clinical experiences often poses logistical and programmatic challenges,” says Porta. “This newly developed Trauma-Informed Care Simulation Series, delivered online and in person when feasible, will advance important competencies and address existing needs and gaps in SANE competency development.”

UMN SANE: A Trauma-Informed Community of Practice

Categories: Outreach