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Wendy Williams-Gilbert, professional development director and RN-BSN program director at the WSU College of Nursing

Gathering physical evidence of sexual assault or abuse in the ER takes specialized training. 

A bill introduced recently in Olympia would authorize the WSU College of Nursing to offer that training to nurses in rural and under-served areas in Eastern Washington.

Forensic nurse examiners need to know how to collect and preserve evidence for possible future legal action while treating the victim sensitively. The training program is called SANE, for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, and it typically involves 40 hours of class instruction plus hands-on clinical skills training.

“It’s been harder to get SANE training in Eastern Washington than it has in Western Washington, even though there’s a need for it across the state,” said Wendy Williams-Gilbert, professional development director at the WSU College of Nursing. Training is offered in Eastern Washington just a few times a year.

Under the proposed legislation, certified SANE trainers from throughout the community would lead the classes, using WSU’s tele-education technology and state-of-the-art simulation labs. WSU would offer the training through its continuing education program.

House Bill 1942 would provide funding for scholarships for nurses in rural communities to attend SANE training.

The bill was introduced in the House College and Workforce Development Committee by lead sponsor Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, R-Goldendale.

Williams-Gilbert said a survey of nurses in Eastern Washington showed they wanted more options for SANE training locally.

Said one survey respondent, “There is a frightening lack of SANE training in the Inland Northwest.”

Williams-Gilbert has first-hand experience in the need for more SANE-trained nurses.

“Having been a critical access nurse, I know that many rural nurses avoid doing sexual assault exams because they don’t do them often and are afraid of doing something wrong that could jeopardize the rape victim’s access to justice in the courts,” she said. “It takes courage for a rape victim to come to the hospital emergency room, and there’s a high probability that they won’t go to a second ER if they are unable to be examined in the first.”

–Story by Addy Hatch