Texas Health Out Loud: SANE Program at Texas Health Hospitals
When most of us think of visiting the emergency department, we are reminded of when we broke an arm, or the last medical drama that we watched on television. We know that skilled nurses and staff doctors are always there and ready for any situation, and we never have to think about what happens in the case of sexual assault. However, in 2016, 591 patients did, and Texas Health was here to help.
For sexual assault victims, having the care of a specially trained nurse, called a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), to collect evidence in a court-approved manner, can mean the difference between a conviction and cold case. They also provide much-needed support and compassionate care to men, women and children following a traumatic experience of a sexual crime.
Every year there are 321,500 victims of sexual assault in the United States, so this it is not an uncommon incident. In comparison, there are about 252, 710 new cases of breast cancer diagnosed each year. Unfortunately, out of every 1,000 of those sexual assaults, only 310 are reported to police.
In the Dallas Fort Worth metroplex, Texas Health Resources has made a commitment to not only providing certified SANEs, but also for being a training site for any nurse who wants to become certified, whether they work at Texas Health or not.
For Kat Gann, M.S.N, R.N., CA-SANE, CEN, SANE-A, the SANE director and lead clinical educator at Texas Health, being a certified SANE is much more than collecting forensic evidence or assembling what is known as a “rape kit.”
“For us, a priority is the medical well-being of the patient, always,” Gann said. “The work of a certified SANE is an exacting job, you must be compassionate and have attention to detail to make sure that the information you obtain and anything you collect can stand up in court. But it is a misconception that we are there just to collect evidence and send the patient on their way.”
Generally, when a patient arrives to an emergency department and notifies the front desk that they have been sexually assaulted, they are immediately evaluated for injuries and then taken to a private exam room to be seen by a certified SANE. From there, the SANE performs a complete medical forensic examination, including obtaining a medical history regarding the reported event, a detailed physical exam, photographs and diagrams of injuries, and finally collection of evidence if indicated by patient history and exam findings.
“In my experience of being called to testify in court, the patient’s history of what happened to them is the most important part of the investigation; the patient’s history of the event leads the medical, investigative and prosecutorial process,” Gann said. “Being able to tell their story, their history and perhaps most importantly being believed can begin the healing process for many of these patients whether the process leads to a successful prosecution or not.”
Certified SANEs undergo approximately 168 hours of rigorous classroom and clinical training to learn how to:
- Show compassion and sensitivity to victims of sexual assault
- Conduct medical forensic exams providing objective health care and collect evidence
- Provide effective courtroom testimony
- Coordinate sexual assault advocacy
If you or a loved one is in need of a SANE evaluation, please visit Texas Health Plano, Texas Health Dallas or Texas Health Fort Worth.
To hear more about the SANE program at Texas Health, a first person account from a former patient and a member of the Dallas Police Department, please listen to episode one of the Texas Health Out Loud Podcast below. The podcast is also available on iTunes, Google Play or our website.