Illinois has 196k nurses — Only 32 are certified to treat sexual assault patients: 7 things to know

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While there are more than 196,000 registered nurses in the state of Illinois, just 32 are certified by the International Association of Forensic Nurses to work with adult patients who've experienced a sexual assault. Only 12 of these nurses are certified to treat child sexual assault patients, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Here are seven things to know.

1. In 2016, nearly 4,500 patients were admitted to Illinois emergency rooms for alleged, suspected, or confirmed rape or sexual abuse, according to data from the Illinois Department of Public Health cited by the Tribune. While health and government officials recommend victims of sexual assault be treated by specially trained nurses, few nurses in the state complete such training.

2. Three years ago, the Illinois attorney general's office hired emergency nurse Jaclyn Rodriguez, RN, BSN, to train more nurses as IAFN-certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) throughout the state. While she estimates 150 nurses across the state have completed the 40 hours of required training, just 32 have completed the IAFN exam.

3. IAFN-certified SANE's are trained to collect evidence while communicating with the patient in a way that doesn't make them feel doubted or guilty. Cindy Hora, the division chief of Crime Victims Services at the attorney general's office, told the Tribune they "end up with more charges and more convictions" when a SANE collected the evidence. SANEs are also trained to testify at a trial, which can be especially important in cases involving child victims.

4. Attorney General Lisa Madigan's office is working with state lawmakers on legislation that would require all Illinois hospitals by 2023 to offer sexual assault patients access to a medical provider trained to handle such cases within 90 minutes of presenting at the hospital.

5. In a statement to the Tribune, the Illinois Health and Hospital Association said it supported SANE programs, but believes achieving this goal in the given timeframe is not feasible because few nurses pursue or complete the training.

6. However, Ms. Rodriguez told the Tribune there's currently a lot of interest among nurses to become certified as a SANE. Her February training session at West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park had more applicants than available slots.

7. Anne Spillane, Ms. Madigan's chief of staff, told the Tribune hospitals are falling short of their healthcare responsibilities for sexual assault survivors.

"In this midst of the #MeToo movement, it couldn't be more clear that providing compassionate care to sexual assault survivors is not the hospitals' priority," Ms. Spillane told the Tribune.

To read the full report in the Chicago Tribune, click here.

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