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Georgia Southern launches new program in School of Nursing to train students to perform examinations for sexual assault victims

Students practice techniques for exams of sexual assault victims during the certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training program.

A new program established in the Georgia Southern University School of Nursing aims to address a gap in the nursing industry by training students to become certified sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE). 

“In Georgia, the need for more certified SANEs is dire,” said Kari Mau, DNP, assistant professor in the Waters College of Health Professions School of Nursing. “In our 159 counties, there are only 26 certified SANEs. The dearth of these specialists statewide impedes victim access to forensic medical exams when they are most in need and most likely to come forward after a traumatic encounter.”

The program will equip Georgia Southern nursing students with the specialized skills needed to conduct this type of examination. 

“We know that numerous barriers exist to increasing the number of certified SANEs, including access to qualified trainers, the length of training programs, few training opportunities and cost,” Mau continued. “Georgia Southern University’s Waters College of Health Professions specializes in rural health. We see this woeful lack of SANE providers — in rural and urban counties alike – as a wrong we can right with our focused advanced practice training program.”

Mary May, a student in the BSN-DNP program, just completed the course, which she described as challenging and impactful. 

“This training helped me to see the myriad aspects of sexual assault and how it impacts individuals and entire communities,” May said. “It emphasized the importance of screening for intimate partner violence and sexual assault at every patient encounter, especially in the realm of women’s health. Honestly, the training was difficult for me in that it was challenging to see and hear the realities of sexual assault, but I feel that I came out of the training better prepared to recognize signs of assault and it equipped me with tools and knowledge to help those who are victimized.”

The first group of students and faculty to complete the certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training in the Georgia Southern School of Nursing.

Seven students, two faculty members and a nurse practitioner at Georgia Southern’s Health Services completed the first training program. 

“The nurse practitioner now has more knowledge to screen and evaluate Georgia Southern students,” Mau said. “The two faculty who are now educated can hopefully facilitate the education in the future as well as integrate the education across undergraduate and graduate nursing education.” 

Mau said many nursing students do not graduate with this type of training, which means Georgia Southern nursing students who complete the training have additional skills upon graduation. 

“Students will be better prepared to care for all patients, even those who are not specifically seen for SANE examinations,” Mau said. “Family nurse practitioner students can integrate the knowledge of sexual assault into their care of patients and institute screening for sexual assault in all patients.” 

May believes this training will make her a better healthcare professional. 

“I know that this training will benefit my career as both nurse and nurse practitioner, because not only will I be better able to recognize signs of sexual assault, I will also have more knowledge about the resources to help victims,” said May. “While I may never work full time as a SANE, I feel that the training really opened my eyes to the prevalence of sexual assault in our communities and the ways in which I as a health care provider can play a part in helping those who have been affected by it.”

Nursing alumna Christie Palmer (‘03) and her husband donated $35,000 in fall 2022 to begin the program.


Posted in Press Releases