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Nurse-Led Course Improves Care of Sexual Assault Victims

Nurse-Led Course Improves Care of Sexual Assault Victims

Jonathan Conso, BSN, RN, of the Emergency Department (ED), often worried that female patients would be reluctant to open up to a male care provider about sensitive aspects of their medical history, especially if they felt unsafe at home or had suffered from abuse.

Participating in a nurse-led simulation course on caring for sexual assault gave him the skills he needed to help patients feel comfortable. “We went over different ways to ask important questions without prying, as well as how to identify signs of physical violence,” he said.

The techniques Conso learned would prove paramount to his ability to identify a victim of human trafficking. “When I introduced myself, I asked if she felt safe here,” he recalled. “The way she answered the question implied that she didn’t feel safe outside of the hospital.”

Conso brought the patient to a quieter space and alerted his colleague, Andrea MacDonald, MSN, MBA, RN, SANE-A, who cared for the patient and connected her with support and resources.

The Sexual Assault Simulation Course for Healthcare Providers (SASH) is the first nurse-led program at the Brigham’s Neil and Elise Wallace STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation. Meredith Scannell, PhD, MPH, MSN, CEN, SANE-A (ED), saw a need to improve care for sexually assaulted patients and worked with a team of fellow forensic nurses and nurse scientists to develop the course. The course focuses on the medical, psychological and forensic needs of patients who have been sexually assaulted.

The nurses who developed the course published their findings in the Journal of Emergency Nursing. Their article, “The Priority of Administering HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis in Cases of Sexual Assault in an Emergency Department,” demonstrated that nurses are better prepared to address the needs of sexually assaulted patients after a simulation course.