How Illinois hospital nurses are improving care for sexual assault patients

After a report found only 32 of more than 196,000 Illinois nurses are certified to treat adult sexual assault patients, nurses at four metro-east hospitals completed training to help provide better care and support for these patients, the Belleville News-Democrat reports.

Six things to know:

1. Ten nurses at four hospitals in Illinois' metro-east region completed sexual assault nurse examiners training, or SANE, which focuses on treating patients physically and mentally; providing information and support; and gathering forensic evidence to use in court cases. 

2. The participating hospitals include Memorial Hospital in Belleville, Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh, St. Elizabeth's Hospital in O'Fallon and Anderson Hospital in Maryville.

The other seven hospitals in the metro-east region do not have forensic nurse examiners. Emergency room staff treat these patients, and they may or may not have experience with sexual assault cases.

3. "Right now, in the state of Illinois, you do not have to be a SANE-trained nurse to do a rape kit," Amy Signore, RN, who works at St. Elizabeth's Hospital, told the Belleville News-Democrat. Ms. Signore completed the classroom and clinical training to practice as a forensic nurse examiner.

But if Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signs legislation the Illinois General Assembly passed this spring, this landscape would significantly change for many of the state's 213 hospitals.

4. The bill requires hospitals identifying as a sexual assault treatment facility to have a forensic nurse examiner (or specially-trained physician or physician's assistant) on call and available 24/7 to get to the ER within 90 minutes of a patient's arrival, starting in 2022. The employee also would have to be qualified to handle different types of cases, including adult, adolescent and pediatric patients.

5. "Sexual assault survivors deserve compassionate care that treats their physical and emotional trauma," said Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who helped write the legislation. "It is past time for Illinois hospitals to provide appropriately trained medical professionals for the thousands of women, children and men who need specialized care after a sexual assault."

6. About 161 Illinois hospitals, including the 11 in the metro-east region, are now treating sexual-assault victims. ER staffs collect evidence for an average of 2,500 forensic-exam kits annually statewide.

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