Two Penn State Health hospitals launch partnership to better support sexual assault victims

A man leans over a smart phone, demonstrating how it is used to connect patients to experts via telehealthJon Essick, IT manager for Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Teleheath (SAFE-T), gives a demonstration of the technology systems that will be used to deliver care for survivors of sexual assault during the partnership announcement held at Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center.

Two Penn State Health hospitals are announcing a partnership to elevate their commitment to delivering expert care for survivors of sexual assault.  Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center and Penn State Health Holy Spirit Medical Center are partnering with Penn State’s Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing to enhance support for these patients through secure telehealth technology. Registered nurses in the emergency departments at both hospitals who have completed Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) training are joining with the College’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Systems.

April 27, 2022Penn State Health News

SAFE-T Systems, which is part of the Nese College of Nursing’s SAFE-T Center, serves rural and underserved areas through telehealth and facilitates the development of locally-based sexual assault treatment teams. SANEs are specially trained in medical forensic examination to provide a high level of care and support for victims seeking a treatment after a sexual assault. These nurses have completed a training course and are on-call for the Hampden Medical Center and Holy Spirit Medical Center emergency departments 24/7. SANEs provide comprehensive, trauma-informed, person-centered sexual assault forensic examination care.

“Holy Spirit Medical Center has always been dedicated to providing a safe space and high-quality care to victims of sexual assault,” said Liz Knauss, nurse manager of the Emergency Department at Holy Spirit Medical Center. “By partnering with the Nese College of Nursing’s telehealth program, our SANEs will be able to elevate that level of care.”

At every step of the process, nurses work with individuals who have experienced sexual assault to explain their options, including reporting to law enforcement, medical examination and documentation of injuries, collection of evidence, infection and pregnancy prevention and referrals to community resources and follow-up care. The SAFE-T Systems technology allows teleSANE experts to interact on video with the SANE in the exam room, as well as the patient and the advocate, all through a secure telehealth connection. The team works together to provide patients with thoughtful, compassionate care.

“We are proud to partner with the Nese College of Nursing to bring a new standard of care for victims of sexual assault,” said Nicole Gautsch, director of nursing for emergency services at Hampden Medical Center. “Our trained SANEs are prepared to ensure that each patient has access to the support they need and quality assurance of care in real time.”

The SAFE-T Center is launched with support from the federal Health Resources & Services Administration to enhance access to high-quality sexual assault care in underserved communities. Through working with district attorneys and law enforcement, SAFE-T strengthens forensic evidence collection and documentation, as well as ongoing training and peer support for SANEs.

Penn State Health’s flagship Milton S. Hershey Medical Center also launched a partnership with the SAFE-T Center in 2019 with funding support from Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

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