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ETSU’s McCook becomes region’s only certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

Contributed • Jul 26, 2019 at 3:30 AM

Dr. Judy McCook, a professor in East Tennessee State University’s College of Nursing, recently earned certification as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A), making her the only SANE-certified nurse in an eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee.

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of the patient who has experienced sexual assault or abuse, according to the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

As of February 28, 2019, there were only a total of 1,140 nurses internationally with the SANE-A certification and 465 nurses with SANE-P (pediatric) certification, according to IAFN.

McCook, who has worked at ETSU since 1997, will use her certification to provide forensic exams and care at ETSU University Health Center for patients who have experienced sexual assault. She also provides education and training for registered nurses who wish to become SANEs.

Last year, Dr. Patricia Vanhook, associate dean in the ETSU College of Nursing, received federal grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in order to fund the Health Education Learning Program for Sexual Assault in Rural Appalachia, or “HELP SARA.” This effort will implement an innovative educational model for SANE education, with a goal of training and certifying a minimum of 21 nurses through the three-year grant program.

The ETSU College of Nursing is also developing a post-baccalaureate Forensic Nursing Certificate program to maintain forensic training opportunities for nurses.

Forensic examinations by SANE-trained nurses will be made available at five ETSU nurse-managed clinics in Johnson, Hancock and Washington counties and at Ballad Health hospitals located in rural areas of the state.

In the most recent 40-hour IAFN SANE-A didactic program, two SANE-A advanced practice nurses and forensic experts from Knoxville – Ginger Evans and Sally Helton – trained 25 nurses from several counties across Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia to perform sexual assault exams on adolescents and adults.

“I don’t plan to be the only certified SANE for long,” McCook said. “I am so pleased we have three nurses prepared to take the SANE-A exam this September. ETSU is committed to training more nurses to become SANEs and to fill a need in our health care facilities and communities.

“In some areas of the state, patients who have experienced sexual assault have to drive long distances in order to be seen by someone who has specialized training in this area. We hope that this grant and continuing efforts in this area will help ensure that these patients get the highest level of care as soon as possible.”

To further training in this area, ETSU will host a conference titled “How Forensic Care Helps Survivors of Human Violence” on Aug. 8-9 at the Carnegie Hotel in Johnson City.

“We encourage all members of Sexual Assault Response Teams to attend, including SANE nurses, nurses and physicians interested in forensic science and emergency room care, hospitalists, law enforcement, investigators, attorneys, social workers and victim advocates,” McCook said.

Dr. Patricia Speck, an internationally renowned forensic nursing expert, will present on human trafficking and trauma-informed care.

In addition, ETSU’s next SANE-P training will cover care of sexual assault patients from birth through age 18. This is a five-day, 43-hour training held at Niswonger Children’s Hospital on Oct. 14-18.

Registration is free for both the conference and the SANE-P training, but space is limited. Registration for both events is available by clicking on the registration link at www.etsu.edu/professionaldevelopment or email mccook@etsu.edu.

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