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St. Luke's to offer training to reduce shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners

Ellen Kennedy was living and working in Washington, D.C., when she decided to make a radical career change.

Kennedy already had a political science degree and worked for Sen. Tim Johnson and the Democratic Party in South Dakota, but she returned to the University of South Dakota to pursue a nursing degree with the goal of becoming a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE). The shortage of nurses trained to conduct forensic medical examinations is an ongoing, nationwide problem.

...Although the Violence Against Women Act requires that victims of sexual assault have access to a medical forensic exam free of charge, the law doesn't require that those exams be conducted by a SANE or provide funding to help registered nurses become SANE-certified.

Many small, rural hospitals don't have the financial means to cover the cost of training, leaving physicians and nurses who have no experience collecting forensic evidence or working with victims of sexual assault to try to fill the void.

According to Jenny Putz, Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault rural sexual assault response team coordinator, 157 nurses have received SANE training in the state, but she said nearly 50 of them are concentrated in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City."There are lots of hospitals that have no SANE nurses. And there are counties that have no SANE nurses," she said. "Small hospitals don't have the capacity to send someone away for a week-long training."

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