Specially trained nurses help to heal victims of assault

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program is training, hiring more staff in Fargo

Evidence kit used by SANE nurses

Near the Sanford Broadway Medical Center is a small building housing the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center of Fargo-Moorhead. The team at the crisis center knows how important nurses are to the victims’ recovery efforts.

“A lot of survivors come in right after the incident. They haven’t eaten, they haven’t slept, they’ve been up for hours. And now they’re sitting in this public waiting space, which can feel really, just long. It can make for a really, really long, stressful day,” said Sara Stompro, advocacy supervisor at the Crisis Center.

“So if we can always have a (sexual assault) nurse and a good supply of them, then we always can ensure that they’re getting accurate, attentive care right away, right when they need it, versus having to sit in an ER for hours.”

That’s why they are glad a program of specially trained nurses is growing. The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program, or SANE, is planning to expand from their current 16 trained nurses to 20, starting with training this fall.

“We’ve all known someone or been affected by domestic violence or sexual violence, and to have someone that is specifically trained in this field, and trauma-informed and victim-centered, is really important for someone that has made that brave first step to come forward, and go through with this process,” said Tina DeLaCruz, support services supervisor at the Crisis Center.

New nurses always needed

Casey Zimmerman, a registered nurse at Sanford Fargo Medical Center, said they have more nurses than most programs in the state of North Dakota.

But with four to five nurses leaving the program every year, the right training and the right people are always needed.

“The nursing profession has a high burnout rate the way it is, especially in the emergency department,” Zimmerman said. “So between that and people going back to school and deciding that the emergency room isn’t for them, we do have a high turnover rate every year or two with sexual assault nurses. So for us to get nurses to come on and stay for more than two years is pretty hard.”

Zimmerman is the head of Sanford Fargo’s SANE program, and she is trying to train more nurses for this important work.

“I think our nurses are extraordinary nurses who can handle these types of cases. They’re compassionate, they’re level-headed, but they also are able to offer the best outcomes for our patients as well,” Zimmerman said. “Being able to put themselves in their situations and being there for those victims at that time, I think our nurses are hard workers. They go above and beyond for the victims and we’ll always do what’s right for them.”

DeLaCruz encourages nurses who feel called to this work to apply.

“One of the quotes that our chief program officer said that always kind of stuck in my mind that she does this work because she can,” said DeLaCruz. “If this is something that you are passionate about, and this is something that you think that you can do, then I think you should give it a try, because it is difficult and it does take a lot of energy, but it is so rewarding.”

Currently nurses who work in the Sanford emergency department for one year are eligible for training to be a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, but there are future plans to open up training in outlying facilities.

Victims of sexual assault who want to come forward can reach out to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Their 24-Hour Crisis Line can be reached by calling 800-344-7273, or more information can be found on their website, raccfm.com.

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Posted In Community, Emergency Medicine, Fargo, Nursing and Nursing Support, Women's

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