Specialized Nurses Join Team to Care for Survivors of Sexual Assault
In recent months, the ThedaCare Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program has welcomed eight new SANE-trained nurses, bringing the team of nurses to 14 caregivers. The ThedaCare SANE program, supported by the ThedaCare Family of Foundations, was launched in 2016. SANE nurses are registered nurses who provide trauma-informed, compassionate care, as well as unbiased, objective collection of evidence and information for survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, strangulation, child abuse and neglect and other crimes. Nurses follow appropriate forensic procedures to arm law enforcement, and the District Attorney’s Office with evidence if it becomes necessary for a court case. SANE nurses complete extensive training which can take up to six months or more to achieve.
“Our team members are dedicated to ensuring survivors have access to safe care and support when they need it most,” said Leah Eckhart RN, BSN, SANE-A, ThedaCare Clinical Program Specialist for the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program. “No two cases are the same. That is a reason our training is critical. The skills and care our nurses provide are irreplaceable. Once trained, SANE nurses require ongoing education and the opportunity to complete exams to remain competent and confident within the field.”
The additional nurses who joined the team are part of a growing need in the area for 24/7 aid to provide comprehensive care for survivors of sexual assault. In 2021, the ThedaCare SANE program provided care for a record number of people, caring for 125 patients. The year prior, they cared for 77 patients, noted Eckhart.
April is recognized as Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The annual campaign aims to increase public awareness about sexual assault and educate communities and people about ways to help prevent sexual violence. According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, about 1.2 million adults in Wisconsin have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime. That’s about 1 out of 3 adult women and almost 1 out of 5 adult men. According to a recent Harvard study, evidence shows that rates of sexual violence increase during states of emergency, including natural disasters, active conflict and health crises.
“ThedaCare, success in this program is having increased capacity to serve patients in times of crisis,” said Eckhart. “Having quality, expert medical care from highly trained nurses in an organized SANE program, is vital to helping a person recover. We want to be sure each person receives care that helps restore their dignity and helps them begin the healing process.”
Eckhart said she also believes more people are coming forward because of referrals and local partnerships with ThedaCare’s SANE program. The community and organizations provide help and support, collectively working towards healing for survivors of sexual assault.
“We connect patients with an advocate so they’re never alone during this process,” said Eckhart. “An advocate is often involved, and can help the survivor navigate their healing journey. Advocates accompany the survivor to their medical forensic exam, as well as any additional law enforcement involvement. They also connect survivors with invaluable resources.
If you or someone you know needs care, contact the ThedaCare SANE program at 920.738.6300.
For more than 110 years, ThedaCare® has been committed to improving the health of the communities it serves in northeast and central Wisconsin. The organization delivers care to more than 600,000 residents in 17 counties and employs approximately 7,000 health care professionals. ThedaCare has 180 points of care, including seven hospitals. As an organization committed to being a leader in Population Health, team members are dedicated to empowering people to live their best lives through easy access to individualized care, supporting each person’s own health and wellbeing. ThedaCare also partners with communities to understand unique needs, finding solutions together, and encouraging health awareness and action. ThedaCare is the first in Wisconsin to be a Mayo Clinic Care
Network Member, giving specialists the ability to consult with Mayo Clinic experts on a patient’s care. ThedaCare is a not-for-profit health system with a level II trauma center, comprehensive cancer treatment, stroke and cardiac programs, as well as primary care.
For more information, visit thedacare.org or follow ThedaCare on social media. Members of the media should call Cassandra Wallace, Public and Media Relations Consultant at 920.442.0328 or the ThedaCare Regional Medical Center-Neenah switchboard at 920.729.3100 and ask for the marketing person on call.