Penn State adds forensic simulation lab to SAFE-T Center project

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The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Training — or SAFE-T — Center at Pennsylvania State University opened its simulation lab July 25.

Penn State launched the SAFE-T Center project in December 2016 under a $1.1 million, 15-month planning grant from the Department of Justice's Office for Victims of Crime. The SAFE-T Center will use video technology to connect trained Penn State nurses with less experienced nurses at critical access hospitals to improve the quality of sexual assault forensic examinations across the state.

A forensic exam — colloquially known as a "rape kit" — is a collection method trained nurses use to preserve evidence following a violent crime, such as an incident of sexual assault or intimate partner violence. A patient relays details of the incident to a nurse examiner, who uses this history to inform a head-to-toe examination.

The telehealth network will enable trained nurses to provide live forensic exam guidance and peer review at critical access hospitals. The simulation lab, by contrast, will enhance forensic exam training for rural nurses using virtual reality and technology demonstrations. At the lab, rural nurses can see simulations of the forensic care process, from physical exam to courtroom testimony.

"The lab is an integral piece of the SAFE-T Center, which aims to create sustainable solutions for forensic sexual assault care in underserved areas," said Sheridan Miyamoto, PhD, RN, assistant professor of nursing and principal investigator on the project.

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