PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County sexual assault victims will no longer have to travel an hour for a forensic examination beginning in the spring.
Last month, Jefferson Healthcare’s board of directors unanimously authorized the implementation of the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program that is scheduled to be available next spring.
Personnel with Harborview Medical Center in Seattle will begin the specialized training of conducting forensic examinations with 14 nurses in February, Jefferson Healthcare hospital officials said.
A program coordinator has been hired to create policies and procedures to ensure evidence will hold up in court proceedings.
“When an incident happens, the steps that someone has to go through are arduous, whether in a rural environment or in an urban setting,” said Amy Yaley, director of marketing and communications for Jefferson Healthcare.
“Someone has just gone through a traumatic event and yet they have to drive a distance for an exam that can take three hours or more.”
Yaley said that Jefferson Healthcare CEO Mike Glenn last spring authorized a task force to investigate both the extent of the need and the possibilities of creating a program at the hospital.
“This came about relatively quickly,” Yaley said. “We didn’t understand the complexity of the program. There are many components to it. We realized that this takes a big investment of people. You don’t just train one or two people and create a quality program.”
She said currently Olympic Medical Center in Port Angeles and Harrison Hospital in Bremerton are the closest medical facilities to Jefferson County that can handle the exams.
“There aren’t a lot of SANE programs in rural counties in the country,” she said.
The task force included three trained SANE registered nurses who have provided SANE services at other facilities (including OMC, Harborview Medical Center and an out-of-state hospital), three other recently trained SANEs who have not yet provided exams, a patient advocate, the interim chief nursing officer, the medical group clinic nurse manager, and the hospital’s director of population health and care transformation.
Dr. Molly Parker, medical director of Jefferson Healthcare’s Population Health Department and holder of a master of public health degree, chaired the committee.
“The group felt that if we are going to offer whole person care, this is a whole person,” Yaley said. “Dove House has great resources for sexual assault victims and this is another piece.
“SANE nurses appear in court as witnesses and offer evidence,” Yaley added. “It’s a true commitment on everyone’s part and we had several employees step forward to be part of the solution.”
She said that sexual assault crime victims have advocacy support in this community. To access that help, call 9-1-1, or seek help through the Jefferson Healthcare Medical Center emergency department, Jefferson County Public Health, 360-385-9400 or Dove House Advocacy Services, 360-385-5291.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.