Male patient being checked by a forensice nurse

Federal grant to develop teleforensic remote assistance center

Interdisciplinary team will establish a statewide telehealth program to increase access to high-quality care for victims of sexual assault in rural, underserved areas
October 9, 2019

With a recently established Center of Excellence in Forensic Nursing, the Texas A&M College of Nursing continues to expand outreach initiatives and implement innovative practices to reduce barriers and increase access to high-quality, patient-centered and trauma-informed care. The College of Nursing was recently awarded a $4 million federal grant from the Office for Victims of Crime (OVC), a division of the United States Department of Justice, extending over a period of three years, to plan, develop and pilot test a statewide sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) telehealth program.

This grant creates a new precedent, supporting every aspect of the multifaceted telehealth proposal funded to reduce the burden placed on patients in rural areas and increase the odds of survivors seeking—and receiving—the best care possible. “It’s always better to provide care for patients at the first hospital they present to because it takes a lot of courage to seek health care after sexual assault,” said Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, CP-SANE, SANE-A, associate professor at the college and principal investigator of the grant. “The innovative teleforensic health care service will help reduce the burden on patients, meaning they won’t have to transfer to hospitals with a forensic nursing program, sometimes hours away, and they won’t have to talk about the trauma repeatedly. Expert SANEs will be available 24 hours a day to guide health care providers through exams, offering support and confidence, to minimize risk of further trauma.”

The Texas Teleforensic Remote Assistance Center (Tex-TRAC), which is the formal name of the program begun under the grant, will allow a team of interdisciplinary experts to develop state-of-the-art medical forensic exam equipment and use evidence-based research to identify and collate data supporting improved medical forensic exam outcomes. Resources will also be leveraged to facilitate a tele-mentoring program for the ongoing support of pilot sites, including hospitals and other emergency health care providers, in rural and underserved areas. An additional component includes the opportunity to amplify training efforts already underway as part of the college’s forensic nursing academic programs in preparing qualified and certified SANEs.

“Our faculty commitment to scholarly excellence is evident in this new federal funding award,” said Nancy Fahrenwald, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, FAAN, dean and professor of the college. “Most importantly, this work advances our efforts to assure quality health care for all people of Texas, particularly people who experience interpersonal violence.”

This grant will expand efforts outlined in a contract recently awarded to the college by the Office of the Texas Attorney General (OAG) to deliver telehealth forensic nursing exam guidance. The missions of both the OAG contract and the OVC federal grant parallel one another, allowing the research team to not only reach a larger number of pilot sites more quickly but to also provide much-needed support services for each.

The award to the interdisciplinary team at Texas A&M University is one of only four state awards made nationally by the OVC in response to increasing access to highly trained, experienced SANEs and other medical forensic examiners to provide high-quality care for victims of sexual assault. The team of experts includes:

Texas A&M University College of Nursing

  • Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, CP-SANE, SANE-A, PI/Director
  • Stacey Mitchell, DNP, MBA, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, DF-AFN, FAAN, Co-PI/Co-Director
  • Angela Mulcahy, PhD, RN, CMSRN, CHSE, Education Director/Coordinator of Training
  • Laurie Charles, MSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, CA-CPSANE, CHSE, Director/Coordinator of SANE Services
  • Evonne Garcia, BSN, RN, CA-CPSANE, SANE-A, SANE-P, Pilot Site Liaison
  • Chelsea Knutson, MSN, RN, Simulation Coordinator
  • Patricia Ehlert, MSN, RN, CNE, Continuing Education Coordinator

Texas A&M University College of Engineering, Department of Biomedical Engineering

  • Gerald Coté, PhD, Co-investigator, Remote Examination System

Texas A&M University College of Medicine

  • Carly McCord, PhD, Co-investigator
  • Regina Beard, EdD, RN, CNE, Co-investigator

Texas A&M University School of Public Health

  • Heather Clark, DrPH, Research Partner and Evaluator
  • Emily Martin, MS, Senior Research Associate 

This release was produced by the Texas A&M University College of Nursing under 2019-V3-GX-K019, awarded by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this release are those of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

— Kala McCain

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