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Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE)

A sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) is a registered nurse (RN) who has specialized forensic training in treating sexual assault victims. They are less often referred to as sexual assault nurse clinician (SANC), or more generally can be called a sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE). They are usually available through a hospital or clinic and on call 24-hours a day to help victims of sexual assault. They not only examine a victim as a health professional, but they approach their work with special sensitivity and knowledge about sex crimes, and they also assess, document, and preserve evidence for the legal aspects of their cases. Their work is vital to adequately serving victims of sexual assault, and their job is multi-faceted and specialized beyond typical medical examinations or emergency care.

Before the establishment of SANE nurses, victims of sexual assault were examined by whichever medical personnel were on duty in the hospital or ER. Not only were the medical personnel not trained in sensitivity, but they were not trained properly in evidence collection. SANE nurses have advanced knowledge of evidence collection, documentation, and preservation. They understand legal proceedings that will follow and what is necessary to successfully prosecute the perpetrators. The use of these nurses has resulted in a much higher likelihood of perpetrators being prosecuted, but also has protected the victims of violent crime from feeling like they are vulnerable, unprotected, and not understood.

Some nurses are trained to work specifically with children, and some with adults. Additionally, SANE staffers can work with more specific subsets of victims, such as the elderly, refugees and immigrants, gay and lesbian victims, victims of same gender sexual assault, or people with disabilities.

A SANE exam has many components. It usually begins with an interview, and preps the victim for the exam. Included are STD evaluation and preventive care, HIV testing, pregnancy risk and prevention, as well as counseling. Documenting evidence is equally important, as proper gathering of evidence is important for any legal case that transpires. They also provide referrals to legal aid or advocacy groups. They provide emotional support and evaluate the emotional state to determine if further evaluation or treatment is needed. Finally, testifying in court is also an important part of being a SANE worker. There are many complex issues involved with this nursing field, such as the issue of confidentiality, consent, mandated reporting, uncooperative victims, and child protective services.

How to Become a SANE Nurse

The path toward becoming a SANE nurse begins with becoming a registered nurse (RN). You can become an RN by either earning your associate degree in nursing over two to three years, or by earning your bachelor’s of science degree in nursing from a college or university, which requires four years. You must also obtain your license from the state in which you wish to practice nursing. Once you are an RN, pursuing the SANE nursing specialty involves continuing education. SANE Certification is voluntary, but is very important because not only does it give you credibility and prove your knowledge and expertise, but it also sets standards across the board for forensic nurse examiners. The Forensic Nursing Certification Board (FNCB) has two certifications for this type of nursing: Sexual assault nurse examiner – adult/adolescent (SANE-A) and sexual assault nurse examiner- pediatric (SANE-P). Some states have very specific certification exams for sexual assault examiners, pediatric, and adolescent examiners. Certification programs that prepare you for the exam can vary, and some states have their own very specific certification exams for sexual assault examiners, pediatric, and adolescent examiners.

SANE salaries can vary greatly depending on geographic region, whether it is rural or urban, the number of cases, as well as employer, depending in particular on whether or not it is community or hospital based. According to the Sexual Assault Resource Center, most SANE staffers are paid by case worked, and not necessarily for their on call time. Pay for exams can range from $100 per exam to $150. Some pay anywhere from $1 to $7.50 per hour for on call time, and some programs none at all. Courtroom appearances and testimony can earn upwards of $100 per appearance, or a set fee per hour, such as $50. These all vary based on the jurisdiction, number of cases, and funds available.

Becoming a sexual assault nurse examiner can be a difficult specialty, but it is an important one that is integral to our society. It can potentially be very fulfilling to help people in such a vulnerable position and get them the help they need and aid their legal case. If this is a path for you, get started now. Depending on your current educational status you will need to start by earning your RN (Find ADN and BSN programs by State), pursuing continuing education in a forensic nursing program or earning a SANE certification which is administered and monitored by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

(Sources: American Forensic Nurses, Minority Nurse, US Department of Justice - Justice Programs - SANE Development & Operation Guide)

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