New $1.177 Million Federal Grant to TAMIU Addresses Critical Shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners
A new $1.177 million dollar federal grant to Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) will help address the chronic shortage of qualified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners through an innovative TAMIU training program delivered by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ Dr. F. M. Canseco School of Nursing.
Funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA), the grant is three years in duration and establishes the Canseco School and the Grant’s leadership as nationally recognized training leaders in sexual assault health care.
The grant, to be known as the TAMIU-SANE Project’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Training, is directed by the College of Nursing and Health Sciences’ dean, Dr. Glenda A. Walker and Dr. Marivic Torregosa, assistant professor and director of graduate programs for the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.
Community partners collaborating in the program include Doctors Hospital of Laredo, Mercy Ministries of Laredo, Gateway Community Center, City of Laredo Health Department, Laredo Medical Center, Laredo Police Department, Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Children’s Advocacy Center, District Attorney’s Office, and SCAN.
TAMIU president Dr. Pablo Arenaz said the grant award affirms the University’s and School of Nursing’s critical role in helping to create solutions to local health care challenges.
“Once again, the University proudly steps forward as the lead agent in creating a solution to a troubling problem: the chronic SANE nurses’ shortage here. In doing so, we fulfill our mission of creating programs responsive to local needs and through community collaborations, help to deliver needed healthcare specialists to our service region,” Dr. Arenaz said.
Nurses completing the three-month program will be trained in behavioral health issues as well as the preservation of evidence, Dr. Walker said.
“This is a critical issue in many Texas communities and Laredo is no exception. Often in instances of sexual assault, hospitals and law enforcement agencies are hard-pressed to find locally available SANE nurses. These examiners are critical in preserving evidence and helping survivors at a most vulnerable time in their lives. If examiners are not readily available, there are legal, medical and social implications that come into play,” Dr. Walker said.
Dr. Torregosa concurred, noting the severity of local need.
“Currently there is only one certified SANE nurse in Laredo and one SANE facility certified by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG). The nearest OAG SANE designated facility is about 154 miles away. According to the Laredo Sheriff’s Office, sexual assault victims experience long wait times in emergency rooms and are often mixed-in with general patients. Due to long waiting times, sexual assault victims are also often transferred to facilities in Mission and Edinburg, 155 and 159 miles south of Laredo, respectively.
“By offering the program here in Laredo, a critical mass of SANE certified nurses could be achieved in the next five to six years. This regional increase of SANE nurses will provide a tremendous benefit to victims of sexual assault and help avoid potential loss of SANE nurses, due to burnout issues stemming from performing SANE duties in addition to regular work schedules. The nationwide SANE nurse shortage often sees them heavily recruited to other communities, further impacting cases. Building a good capacity of SANE trained nurses in our target area will have a positive impact on the medical and psychological well-being of sexual assault victims. We hope it will also reduce future sexual assaults as the judicial system will be better prepared to successfully convict perpetrators,” Dr. Torregosa explained.
Dr. Walker outlined the criteria for program admission.
“Practicing registered nurses, especially those working the emergency rooms and free-standing clinics in Webb County and surrounding communities, are eligible and are encouraged to join our SANE training, paid for by HRSA grant funds. Teaching will be online while hands-on elements are conducted through simulation using live models and medium fidelity manikins.
“The trainees will also be placed in trauma centers across Texas in order to have supervised hands-on forensic nursing experiences. Auxiliary sites for this include Houston Methodist Willowbrook, Parkland Health and Hospital System, SAFE Alliance, Driscoll Children’s Hospital, Darnall Army Medical Center, UT Medical Branch, and Harris County Forensic Nurse Examiners.
“After completing the necessary requirements, trainees will be eligible for CA-SANE certification from the OAG. They can then perform forensic nursing examinations on sexual assault victims and serve as an expert witness in court trials,” Walker concluded.
Recruitment for potential participants will begin in October of this year. Inquiries can be directed to Dr. Torregosa, TAMIU-SANE Project program director, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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