‘It’s very important’: New bill aims to get more sexual assault nurse examiners trained in eastern Washington

SPOKANE, Wash. – Soon, sexual assault survivors in eastern Washington will no longer have to travel far to get help. The Washington legislature unanimously passed a bill to bring more sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE) to eastern Washington by providing training in Spokane.

The bill will require Washington State University’s College of Nursing to establish a SANE program. Currently, there’s only one place to go get sexual assault nurse training in the Evergreen State and it’s in western Washington.

“They do a great program it’s just difficult for one program to be able to facilitate everything through one state,” said Victoria Sattler, the lead faculty for professional development at the WSU’s College of Nursing.

Sattler, who is also an emergency room nurse at Providence Sacred Heart, says more nurses specialized in sexual assault examinations are needed.

She says some places, especially in rural areas, don’t have enough of those nurses trained to do that, which then could force some people to travel far to get that help.

“For us to be able to provide an educational platform, it would facilitate that training so that individuals, as nurses, are able to not only provide the emotional support for a patient during their time of need,” Sattler continued. “But, also to be able to collect the evidence for prosecution and court case down the road.”

Sexual assault nurse examiners have at least 40 hours of additional training to properly help victims. It includes training on how to do evidence collection, interview patients and document them for any potential court cases. These specialized nurses need to know what they can do on the legal side of things, too

In most cases, when a victim needs an exam, it takes about four hours. Nurses can’t leave the victim to help other patients during that time, Sattler said.

Erin Williams Hueter, the director of Lutheran Community Services Inland Northwest, said having more trained nurses would help.

“It’s important to have more so we have 24-hour coverage in every emergency department in our region. When a person presents there and they say they’ve been sexually assaulted, the difference is enormous when you get somebody who’s trained, and experienced and feels confident in what they’re doing, and isn’t feeling pulled and pressured to leave for other emergencies that are also so very important in the emergency room,” Williams Hueter said.

WSU said it’s ready to start putting the training program together once it gets Governor Inslee’s signature.

It plans on using the International Association of Forensic Nursing program, which there isn’t a program like that in Washington.

The university also plans to have hands-on clinical experiences, too, once the program gets up and running.

“I’m excited that we have incredible partners within our community that when they saw and recognized a need for our region every one of them stepped up and said, ‘We’re here to help, What can we do?” And, it’s a great moment when everybody can honestly say that what really comes forward is the importance of patient care and that’s what we’re here for,” Sattler said.

READ: 5 major things the Washington Legislature approved in 2022