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Seven CVPH Nurses Earn SANE-A Certification

The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) has nearly tripled the number of registered nurses certified to collect evidence from patients in sexual assault investigations.

Seven nurses in the Emergency Department (ED) recently completed training to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) for adult patients, bringing the total number of nurses with that designation in the hospital to 11. SANE nurses serve multiple purposes based on the needs and desires of the victim of sexual assault or abuse. Appropriate medical care, support and comfort are provided. Counselors through the local Crisis Center can be requested. And the nurses are specially trained to collect forensic evidence.

“We always follow the victim’s lead and will never do anything without permission. Rest assured, any information the victim provides remains in the strictest confidence. If the victim decides to notify law enforcement officials, we can help facilitate that. It is also important to know that we store evidence for up to 20 years, so the victim does not need to make an immediate decision about contacting police,” CVPH Emergency Department (ED) Director Gail Bjelko explained.

Should the victim notify authorities, SANE nurses may work closely with law enforcement as part of the investigation and are often called upon to testify during court proceedings about the evidence they collected. According to Bjelko, the hospital sees about 40 potential sexual assault cases a year.

“We are not proving or disproving what happened. We are strictly collecting evidence. And we work to help the patient through that process as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Bjelko noted.

A secure, private, comfortable room is reserved near the Emergency Department solely to care for people who have been sexually assaulted and is stocked with everything that is needed to meet the specific needs of these patients.

“There, they can begin to feel safe again and get the care they need while our nurses conduct exams and preserve evidence,” Bjelko added.

Training consists of at least 50 hours in the classroom followed by ongoing clinical practice under the guidance of another veteran SANE nurse.

“I have three daughters, so I always think about what if that was my daughter and there was no nurse available to care for her, support her and collect her evidence,” said Bjelko, who has been a SANE nurse for years. “It could at any point be your child or your relative. And so that’s what I think of, that is what has motivated me. I want to make sure each victim receives the care and support they need.”

Lysandra Barney, RN, a Clinical Education Manager at CVPH who works in the ED, is one of the 7 new SANE nurses. Wanting to better meet the needs of her patients is what lead her to seek the training and certification.

“Having to call somebody else in because I didn’t have those skills bothered me. I wanted to be able to help those patients coming through our doors and make sure they didn’t have to wait. I’m now a more well-rounded nurse,” Barney said.

Bjelko added that she and her team are working to determine if more SANE nurses are required to meet the needs of the community. Her goal is to ensure coverage as close to 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as possible so that patients will not need to wait and evidence can be collected in a timely manner. She and Barney are also putting together plans to provide safety education in the community, including visits to area colleges and universities.

“It’s really about doing what’s best for our patients and our community,” Barney offered. “I’m proud of the number of nurses who stepped forward voluntarily to do this. We all want to help every patient who comes to us for care, and becoming a SANE nurse was something the 7 of us could do that benefits so many people.”

Seven Registered Nurses at The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) recently completed training and certification to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). This brings the total number of SANE nurses at CVPH to 11. Pictured front row from left to right: Tammy Trombley and Jisselle Annette. Second row, from left to right: Lysandra Barney, Gail Bjelko, Elizabeth Craigmyle, Aubrey Kerr, Aanya Carter, Samantha Duprey and Christina Trim. Not pictured: Gayle Simmons-Byer and Gabriella Dandrow-Pellerin.

Seven Registered Nurses at The University of Vermont Health Network – Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital (CVPH) completed intense classroom education and clinical training to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. In addition to providing compassionate care to victims, these nurses help collect forensic evidence. Pictured from left to right: Aubrey Kerr, Lysandra Barney, Tammy Trombley, Aanya Carter, Christina Trim, Samantha Duprey.