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Nurses certified to assist victims of sexual assault

Thankfully, most will never experience the trauma of sexual assault. But, for those who do, the trauma often continues beyond the actual assault.

ETMC Gilmer hopes to ease the trauma for sexual assault survivors in Upshur and surrounding counties beginning Feb. 1 when the hospital initiates its sexual assault nurse examiner program. The SANE program in Gilmer eliminates the need for survivors to travel for miles to be seen by medical professionals specially trained to provide the care and treatment they need and to properly collect evidence needed by law enforcement.

"Over the past several years, we have seen the incidence of sexual assault increase in Upshur, Wood and surrounding counties," said Jorge Leal, FACHE, administrator at ETMC Gilmer. "We often see these survivors in our emergency department. Our team members have watchedthese men, women and children wait and then be transported to Longview or farther to be treated, prolonging their trauma. We saw the need to provide this care locally and we determined to do something to improve the situation."

Four registered nurses at ETMC Gilmer-Shirlina Lucas, RN, SANE coordinator; Jodi Jones, RN, trauma/stroke coordinator; Jan Loya, RN; and Brandy May, RN--have completed the more than 240 hours of coursework and clinical requirements needed to earn certification from the state to conduct SANE exams for survivors of adult, adolescent and pediatric sexual assault. The four received their SANE certifications in January.

"The dedication needed to complete the SANE training is a testimony to each nurse's personal commitment to helping sexual assault survivors in our community," said Teri Curington, RN, MSN, emergency department director at ETMC Gilmer. "Each of these nurses has a proven track record of professional accomplishment and has proven herself in critical situations."

At least one of the SANE nurses will be available to assist sexual assault survivors 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Sexual assault survivors, who present at ETMC hospitals in Pittsburg and Quitman, will be seen and medically cleared by an emergency room physician, then will make the short trip ETMC Gilmer where needed equipment is available to complete the SANE exam.

ETMC Gilmer began laying the groundwork for the SANE program by initiating the Upshur County Sexual Response Team, which consists of 26 volunteers from Upshur, Wood and Camp county law enforcement agencies, district attorneys' offices, child protective services, the Women's Center of East Texas and the Northeast Texas Child Advocacy Center.  The SART is committed to prosecuting sexual assault offenders and to working together to benefit and assist sexual assault survivors.

One way the public can assist is to volunteer for the Hospital Emergency Advocacy Response Team for ETMC Gilmer. The Women's Center of East Texas is coordinating the program through which volunteers receive training to provide comfort, support and services to survivors of sexual assault, as well as their family members who accompany them for treatment.

Volunteers determine their own time commitment to the program and must pass a criminal background check. For more information on HEART, contact the Women's Center of East Texas at 903-295-7846.

"ETMC Gilmer is proud to offer this much needed program," Leal said. "By providing these services locally, sexual assault survivors will no longer have to leave the area in order to receive medical treatment and SANE examinations. We hope this will help ease the process for them and set them on the road to healing."