Womack Army Medical Center leads the way for patients who may be victims of sexual assault.
"Womack Army Medical Center is one of the few Army medical centers that offers a comprehensive program for victims of sexual assault," said Col. (Dr.) Frank Christopher, the deputy commander for Clinical Services, WAMC.

"The specially trained sexual assault nurse examiners are a team of 18 nurses, primarily based in the Emergency Department and other clinical areas of Womack, who are specially trained to meet victims' medical, emotional and legal needs. Additionally, they ensure compliance with all laws and Army regulations," Christopher said.

The training is shifting from the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program to the Forensic Medical Examiner Program which will include physicians and physician assistants. There was new Medical Command training that was conducted in May at Womack that included providers from Forces Command, Veteran's Administration and WAMC. Three other installations provided personnel for the training.

The goal is to offer this training twice per year at WAMC. "The expansion of our forensic program not only enhances Womack and our Emergency Department, it provides a vital service to our community, the Soldiers and their Families whom we are proud to take care of," said Dr. Vicki Lanier, chief, Department of Emergency Medicine.

SANE nurses undergo two weeks of intensive training followed by a one to three month internship with a practicing forensic provider.

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, interviewing skills, utilization of social work services, Family Advocacy, Army Emergency Relief and rape crisis centers.

The second week is dedicated to their clinical skills. SANE nurses are on call 24-hours a day to respond to patients of abuse. They 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, SANE testify in criminal cases. They also ride along with local law enforcement officials, attend criminal trials and conduct scenario-based practical exercises. Each SANE conducts 40 proctored genital exams.

These nurses work in conjunction with Social Work Services and the Victim Advocate's Office at Fort Bragg.

"We provide SANE coverage for Fort Bragg, 24-hours a day, seven days a week," said Christopher.
The SANE nurses provide services to sexual assault patients 14-years old and over. For pediatric patients, Womack has one pediatric sexual assault nurse examiner on staff and plans to expand the pediatric program within the next year. Womack Army Medical Center can also rely on Dr. Sharon Cooper and Dr. Ursula Chesney, both of whom are developmental and forensic pediatricians.

The improvements in DNA collection and forensic testing makes it possible to collect evidence up to 120 hours after an assault. Kelly Taylor, RN, 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 sexual abuse cases. The Emergency Department staff has access to clothing for those sexual assault patients who are brought to the Emergency Department," she said.

"We want our patients to feel safe during the exam. We want them to know that our Emergency Department and highly trained forensic staff has everything they need to treat our patients both emotionally and physically," Taylor added.