Mercy Hospital Independence recently received grant funding to expand its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program to include “forensic nursing.”
The $10,000 “Mercy Caritas” grant awarded by the Mercy Health ministry will provide education and equipment to establish a comprehensive forensic nursing program locally.
Three years ago, Mercy established its certified SANE program to serve victims of sexual assault who come to the Emergency Room for care. With the only official program within a 40-mile radius, Mercy currently has two certified SANE nurses on staff who are trained to conduct comprehensive victim examinations and collect, document and preserve forensic evidence that may be used in the eventual prosecution of offenders.
With the help of the recent grant funding, Mercy is poised to expand to a more comprehensive forensic nursing program, which will include examinations, collection of evidence and documentation involving both victims and suspects in a variety of assault cases. Expanding the program will include training additional nurses, acquiring new equipment and working even more closely with area law enforcement agencies, court systems and victims advocacy groups.
Both SANE and forensic nursing programs are few and far between in Kansas, said Patti Doncouse, RN, Mercy’s Emergency Department director and SANE program coordinator, with the nearest other known forensic program located in the Kansas City area.
“Domestic abuse and sexual assaults are much more common than the average citizen probably realizes,” Doncouse said. “We see many such cases in our ER, and as we know through statistical data and our own experience with patients that the majority of cases actually go unreported to authorities.
“We sincerely hope that our service – which combines appropriate forensic training with compassionate Mercy care – can begin to positively impact this trend. We want to establish a safe environment for victims and advocate for justice in their cases.”
Mercy Caritas was established by Mercy in 1987 to provide funds to health and human services programs that meet unique community needs. A total of 26 programs, serving families and communities throughout Mercy, will receive grants ranging from $3,000 to $50,000 as 2014 recipients of the Mercy Caritas and Catherine McAuley Area of Greatest Need grant programs.