• Leader & Times
Jandi Head is the program coordinator for Southwest Sexual Assault Services (SWSAS) at Southwest Medical Center. She talked about the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program, its involvement in cases and her background in the field.
Q: How does SWMC assist individuals in a sexual assault case?
A: We are typically notified by law enforcement or LARC/DVS (Liberal Area Rape Crisis/Domestic Violence Services) of a possible sexual assault and request for an exam.
Patients may also call or present to the emergency department and request a forensic exam. We have nurses who are on call and we work to try to get the patient in as quickly as possible.
Q: What happens after you’re called? What’s your next course of action?
A: Once we are notified, we set up a time to meet with the patient. If it has been less than 120 hours since the assault for an adult or child, we set the exam up as soon as possible.
It is important for people to know if they are sexually assaulted, the sooner they come see us, the better our chances to treat them appropriately and collect evidence, if they so choose. If the assault is on a child and occurred greater than 120 hours, we can schedule it for a time that best suits the child’s needs and when a nurse is available.
We contact LARC/DVS to offer their support services to the patient and family if they aren’t already involved. Our next step is then to meet with the patient and provide them with a forensic exam.
Q: What’s your background in this field?
A: I have been a nurse for 10 years, with emergency department experience for nine years. In August 2015, I went through the initial adult/adolescent SANE training which is a 40 hour class that covers the basics regarding patient’s needs, forensic exams, documentation and evidence collection.
I continued training for several months, including exam observations in Wichita, clinical training as well as a 40-hour pediatric course. There are currently four other nurses in our program and all have been through similar training for the SANE program, each with different nursing backgrounds.
Education and training for this program is ongoing for every nurse to keep our skills current and to follow the changing recommendations, treatments and guidelines.
Q: What is involved in the assessment and documentation part of your job?
A: Our main focus is to assure the health and safety of the patient. We provide a thorough medical assessment and offer treatment for injuries and/or infections.
We also offer evidence collection if the assault was less than 120 hours prior and if the patient agrees to it. Our documentation is very detailed and includes our observations, our findings and the patient’s statements. We can also provide photo documentation.
Q: Whats some of the different laws concerning sexual assault examinations?
A: We have clinical guidelines to assist us in providing thorough exams and following the appropriate steps. As nurses, we are mandated reporters and are required to report child and elder abuse, which includes sexual abuse.
For the adult patient, we do not report the sexual assault unless the patient chooses to do so. A patient can still come see us, receive treatment and have a forensic exam and not report it to law enforcement. We discuss all options with the patient so they can make an informed decision.
Q: How new is SANE?
A: Our SANE program was established in May 2016. Establishment of nationwide SANE programs actually began in the 1970s when nurses were recognizing that emergency departments were not fully meeting the needs of sexual assault victims.
Emergency departments have a quick turnaround; focus on treating the injury and rapid discharge, whether it is to home, hospital admission or other. Patients who may have experienced a sexual assault need attention in a slower paced atmosphere, time to talk and the ability to control their environment.
Patients who have been sexually assaulted often feel as if they are not in control, we want to give them back control and help to assure they receive the treatment they may need, so patients are in complete control over the exam process and can accept or decline any of our services.
Q: And how useful of a tool is it for law enforcement?
A: Part of being a forensic nurse means to be unbiased. We do not work for law enforcement but we work with them when they are requesting an examination or if we report one to them.
Our primary focus is on the patient’s health care needs. If a patient chooses to report to law enforcement or if they fall under the mandatory reporting law, we will work with law enforcement as we are able.
Q: As a SANE nurse, how do you determine that someone has been sexually assaulted? What signs do you look for?
Our role is to assess for injury and any medical needs, and to provide thorough documentation regarding what we see and hear.
When performing an exam, our process is guided by the patient’s statements. We look for bodily injury, body fluids and can collect evidence at the patient’s request.
Q: Approximately how many cases do you deal with on a yearly basis?
A: Our program has only been seeing patients for a year and a half, but so far we have seen between 35-40 patients per year from the Liberal area and surrounding counties and states.
It’s important to note that we are one of the few programs offering this service in Western Kansas, so we’ve become an important resource for not only our community, but this entire region.
Q: How can the community support the ongoing mission of this service?
A: Our program has two upcoming fundraisers, a benefit lunch at Southwest Medical Center Friday, April 6, as well as our third annual #breakthesilence 5K race Saturday, April 7. We will be sending out more information for the community soon as these fundraisers help us provide this very important service close to home.
The Southwest Sexual Assault Services program has been made possible through generous grants and donations from the community. Funds received help to pay for the cost of providing services, equipment, and training needed to support this program. SWSAS is also proud to be an agency of the Seward County United Way. We are thankful for the support our community continues to provide us to serve victims of sexual assault.