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Forensic Nursing Receives $1.47M Grant to Recruit and Train Nurses

Sexual assault nurse examiners needed to treat patients in underserved and rural areas in Texas

The Texas A&M College of Nursing received a $1.47 million three-year grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services to recruit and train nurses from rural and underserved areas in Texas to become certified adult sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE), along with forensic nurses currently in practice for enhanced experimental learning or certification.

SANEs are registered nurses who complete education, clinical preparation and certification in providing comprehensive health care to survivors of sexual assault. They use their expertise to treat the acute and long-term consequences of the assault, with the patient’s physical, mental and emotional needs in mind.

“There is a critical need to increase the number of trained sexual assault nurses examiners across Texas,” said Stacey Mitchell, DNP, SANE-A, SANE-P, DF-AFN, FAAN, clinical associate professor and project director for the grant. “For many people who experience sexual assault, particularly those in rural areas, access to health care is a challenge, especially when it comes to this specialized are of clinical practice.” The forensics nursing faculty team of experts that lead the project includes Nancy Downing, PhD, RN, SANE-A, associate professor, and Laurie Charles, MSN, SANE-A, SANE-P, CA-CPSANE, clinical assistant professor.

In addition to providing care for survivors of sexual assault, SANEs play a key role in justice being served. “Survivors deserve the opportunity to pursue justice through civil or criminal legal proceedings,” said Mitchell. “SANEs learn how to observe, collect and document evidence that can effectively be used to prosecute perpetrators.”

Texas A&M College of Nursing is poised to lead the state and nation in forensic nursing. Faculty teach students how to provide trauma-informed care for all survivors of violent crimes, they are leading a major revision of the Texas Forensic Evidence Collection Protocol in partnership with the Texas Attorney General’s Office and they are providing SANE training for the state of Texas. Additionally, faculty host regional conferences on Human Trafficking for multidisciplinary forensic professionals.

“We are committed to improving the health of survivors of violent crimes through a variety of initiatives,” said College of Nursing Dean Nancy Fahrenwald, PhD, RN, PHNA-BC, FAAN. “Our focus is statewide, with an emphasis on serving vulnerable populations, especially those in rural Texas where resources are limited.”

The strategy supported by the grant will enable the College of Nursing to develop SANE resources in underserved areas and extend resources in areas where some support is currently available. This will be accomplished both in person and through telecommunication.

“We will establish partnerships with existing SANE programs to identify preceptors, mentors and clinical opportunities for nurses enrolled in the course,” said Mitchell. “And, we will provide coaching, debriefing and continuing education for all participants to enhance the level of forensic nursing care provided across the state.”

Initial funding from the grant will be received by Oct. 1, 2018. “The federal grant is a reflection of our faculty’s expertise and dedication, and recognition that our program can make an indelible impact on quality of care provided to survivors of violent crimes,” said Fahrenwald. “We are so proud to serve the citizens of Texas in this way.”

In 2016, Texas A&M College of Nursing was awarded a four-year designation as a Center of Excellence (COE) by the National League of Nursing in Creating Environments that Enhance Student Learning and Professional Development. The COE designation is in recognition of the college’s outstanding innovations, commitment and sustainability of excellence.

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