Twenty Northwell Health emergency nurses were certified as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), becoming the first class to graduate from the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies SANE program. A small, informal ceremony was held at the Northwell Health Center for Learning and Innovation to recognize the nurses’ achievements.
Their training took place over six months and included mastering the skills needed to provide emotional support and medical treatment to victims of rape and sexual assault while also collecting vital forensic evidence.
“We are very proud of the inaugural class of sexual assault nurse examiners. These innovative and courageous nurses are prepared to deliver trauma-informed care to victims of sexual assault,” said Kathleen Gallo, PhD, MBA, RN, dean and professor of the Hofstra Northwell School of Graduate Nursing and Physician Assistant Studies and executive vice president and chief learning officer at Northwell Health. “They are leading the way in shaping how Northwell Health will respond to the special needs of these victims.”
A SANE nurse is often the first person to help sexual assault survivors begin to heal, making sure they feel safe as they are treated in the emergency room. The absence of SANE nurses at hospitals often re-victimizes those who have suffered a sexual assault by having them recount what happened to emergency room personnel, and then again to a nurse, physician or other clinician.
SANE nurses act as personal advocates staying upwards of six hours with their patients as they gain their trust, ask difficult questions, conduct physical exams to check for evidence and injury, provide emergency contraceptives and maintain evidence for law enforcement.
“This program is important for nursing to keep us evolving and growing so we work to the full breadth of our scope of practice,” said Amy Smith, a nurse practitioner at LIJ Forest Hills and coordinator of the SANE program. “Having SANE nurses in our hospitals benefits all of the diverse communities we serve so that no patient who seeks SANE services needs to be transferred out of our facilities and out of their neighborhoods.”
From January 2018 to the present, there were 699 sexual assault victims seen in Northwell Health emergency departments across the region.
The Hofstra Northwell SANE program is the only university- and health system-based program in New York State. It is composed of 40 hours of classroom training and 300 hours of hands-on clinical training and is made possible through a federal grant that aims to increase the number of SANE nurses in New York.