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New Nursing Program to Help Sexual Assault Victims

The Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies has received a three-year, $754,000 federal grant to create a program to increase the number of nurses in New York trained and certified as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE).

The new SANE program, the only university- and health system-based program in New York State, will train nurses in Nassau and Suffolk counties, as well as the boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

Of the 17 emergency departments (EDs) that Northwell Health operates throughout the New York metropolitan area, only four are designated as SANE Centers of Excellence by the Department of Health. Those sites – North Shore University Hospital, Staten Island University Hospital North, Lenox Health Greenwich Village (LHGV) and Peconic Bay Medical Center – have 24-hour coverage by nurses who provide confidential medical care to victims of rape and sexual assault, and coordinate follow-up treatment and emotional support.

Amy Smith, a nurse practitioner at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills who started the SANE program at LHGV, has been designated as project coordinator for the new training program.

The absence of SANE nurses at hospitals often re-victimizes those who have suffered a sexual assault by having them recount what happened to ED administrative personnel, and then again to a nurse, physician or other clinician.

“People will show up to any hospital because they assume that when they see an `H,’ anything that they need can be taken care of at that facility,” said Smith. “What happens is that the patient doesn’t get the care that they need because the staff doesn’t have all the special training that they need to deal with all the different facets of something that is not only a medical need but also a crime.”

The grant from the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Services Administration will enhance the existing academic-practice partnership between Hofstra University and Northwell Health, and include a collaboration with Hofstra’s Maurice A. Deane School of Law.

“Participants in the program, who will be trained as forensic nurses, will be responsible for collecting evidence. They may be called to court to provide testimony, so the law school is going to be part of our curriculum and put the nurses through mock trials so they can be prepared for the pressure of what a defense attorney would put them through,” said Kathleen Gallo, PhD, MBA, RN, dean and professor of the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies and senior vice president of Northwell Health.

Composed of 40 hours of classroom training and 300 hours of hands-on clinical training, the SANE program will also feature standardized patients who are individuals trained to represent real sexual assault victims, helping nurses practice diagnostic and communication skills.

“These standardized patients help students learn how to perform a gynecologic exam and collect evidence on them personally,” said Dr. Gallo, who will be the primary investigator for the grant program. “Our students will be learning to provide compassionate care with standardized patients prior to entering the sensitive world of sexual assault.”

The inaugural class of 25 SANE students is expected to begin in early 2019.

Between January and June 2017, there were 1,240 sexual assault victims seen in emergency departments in localities served by Northwell Health.

“Offering this type of specialized education at Hofstra University to our nurses will give us the ability to grow the program with the goal of having SANE coverage throughout the Northwell community,” said Smith.

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