Department Spotlight 26 April 2022

Forensic Nursing at Ivinson

In recognition of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we work to raise awareness around sexual assault and resources available to survivors.

SANE forensic nursing social 5

Ivinson’s forensic nursing program, better known as SANE” standing for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, is made up of registered nurses that span several departments and areas of expertise.

One trait they all share is their dedication to caring for patients on their worst days and helping them through it. 

During the month of April, Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we highlight the important work this team is doing and shine a light on the resources they bring to Ivinson.

For the last four years, Shelby Lowham, RN has been a floor nurse at Ivinson. Starting in med/​surg, she moved into the emergency department where she has continued to stay and serve. Currently, Shelby works as the SANE Coordinator at Ivinson. 

Q: What is the role of a sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE)?

Shelby, RN: Our main role is to be an advocate for the patient or the victim. We see a wide variety of patients that have been victimized. We see anybody from victims of sexual assault, to domestic violence, elderly abuse and child abuse. We also may be called in for cases that you wouldn’t think of as a SANE patient, like victims of car accidents caused by DUI. Our role is to ensure they are getting top notch medical care, make sure they are taken care of not being re-traumatized due the sensitivity of their visit. We also would be the ones to collect evidence, assist in investigations and gather a history with law enforcement. 

Q: How does someone become a SANE/​forensic nurse? What training is involved?

Shelby, RN: First we like to have team members volunteer for this role, we don’t actively recruit due to the nature of the work. 

Most of our certifications go through the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). They do the SANE‑A (adult) and SANE‑P (pediatric) certifications. You complete the classes and then are required to have a certain number of clinical hours before you can test to certify. There is a 40 hour class that we complete for adult exams and then there is an additional 40 hour class that we take for pediatric exams. 

Most of our staff goes to a clinical skills training specific to forensic nursing. Some might train with our OBGYN team to do speculum exams which is a big part of our training. 

Q: What other kinds of cases are SANE/​forensic nurses called on for?

Shelby, RN: Outside of sexual assault cases or abuse cases, we like to be called in on any kind of pediatric trauma or pediatric code. Our team would also work with patients of stabbings, gun shot wounds, anything that is a mandatory report case is something a SANE nurse should be called in for. My general rule of thumb is, if you call the cops or if the cops are involved, you should probably call a SANE nurse. 

Q: What equipment does this role require that other nurses may not use?

Shelby, RN: We use a high end camera that documents wounds, evidence and other injuries. We also use a colposcope, it is basically a camera that we can use to document injuries internally. Those are two of our main pieces of equipment and they both help us with documentation. 

Q: Why is access to specialized care like SANE/​forensic nursing important?

Shelby, RN: When someone has been victimized, they have already been through a trauma. They come into the medical field for help and without training, someone may not know what to say or what to do. If we don’t have someone who can collect evidence or gather that story, a patient has to tell their story to the hospital, they have to tell their story to the police, they have to go through multiple exams, a medical exam, a forensic exam with the police and it can all feel very cold. As forensic nurses, we offer advocacy, we offer a single face that can do everything at once. We offer advice and resources that not everyone knows about. 

Q: What resources do SANE nurses offer?

Shelby, RN: We work within what we call a SART, a sexual assault response team. In that SART we have people from the county, the district attorney, the legal side of things. We have multiple police departments, the county police, the sheriff’s office, the Laramie police department, UW PD and another big piece of that team is the SAFE Project. 

The SAFE Project is an advocacy group that works with the same kind of cases as SANE. SAFE Project offers advocates that can come and be present during the exam. They support a patient every step of the way and can help patients with financial reimbursement and offer other forms of support to help patients figure out next steps and how to move forward. 

Q: What should patients know about Ivinson’s SANE program?

Shelby, RN: We are here to help patients get through what may be some of the hardest times of their lives. We are always here. Patients can come into the ER and ask for a SANE nurse without providing any other information. We are on call 247 and work to always have some available or someone on call to take those cases. 

When in doubt, please ask us. We are happy to answer any questions you have. There is no commitment, you don’t have to tell us anything more or less than you feel comfortable with. We are here free of judgment. 

safe project

SAFE Project is a nonprofit in Albany County, Wyoming, that supports survivors of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and family violence. 

Speak with an advocate at any time by calling our 24-hour Hotline at (307) 7453556.

national domestic violence hotline