FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Womack Army Medical Center leads the way for patients who may be victims of sexual assault. WAMC is the only Army medical center that offers a comprehensive program for victims of sexual assault, according to Col. (Dr.) Frank Christopher, chief of the Department of Emergency Medicine at WAMC.

The specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners are a team of 12 nurses, primarily based in the Emergency Department and other clinical areas of WAMC. These nurses are trained to meet victims' medical, emotional and legal requirements. Additionally, they ensure compliance with all laws and Army regulations, Christopher said.

SANE nurses undergo two weeks of intense training. The training consists of education in Army regulations, relevant male and female anatomy and physiology, forensic examination and evidence collection, medical photography, psychology of the sexually assaulted patient, interview skills, use of social work services, Family Advocacy, Army Emergency Relief and rape crisis centers.

The second week is dedicated to their clinical skills. The SANE nurses are on-call 24 hours a day to respond to patients of alleged abuse. The nurses determine the extent of the injuries and how to treat them, perform genital exams, collect potential evidence and photographs, and perform baseline testing for pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. They also coordinate with outside agencies for follow up and future treatment.

If needed, they testify in criminal cases. They also ride along with local law enforcement officials, attend criminal trials and conduct scenario-based practical exercises. Each SANE nurse conducts 40 proctored genital exams.

"These nurses work in conjunction with Social Work Services and the Victim Advocate's Office at Fort Bragg. Our goal is to provide SANE coverage for Fort Bragg, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week," said Christopher. "The SANE nurses provide services to alleged sexual assault patients 16 years old and over.

For pediatric patients, we call on Dr. Sharon Cooper or Dr. Ursula Chesney, our developmental and forensic pediatricians, to assist us with those cases," he added.

The improvements in DNA collection and forensic testing allow evidence to be collected longer than the normal 24 hours after an assault.

Liz Herring, a registered nurse and the SANE program coordinator, explained that the Emergency Department has one specific treatment room that is designated for assault patients. The room is set up to do triage, provide treatment, gather evidence and discharge patients who are being treated for possible sexual abuse cases. The Emergency Department staff has access to clothing for sexual assault patients who are brought to the Emergency Department, she added.

"We want our patients to feel safe during the exam. We want them to know that our Emergency Department has everything we need to treat them," Herring said.

For more information, please call the Emergency Department at 907-7000.