SSM Health Medical Minute – New SLU Hospital offers designated space and resources for sexual assault victims

Medical Minute

ST. LOUIS – The new SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital opened September 1, 2020, with many new and exciting features to improve patient and staff experiences. The new emergency department (ED) offers a specially designated space dedicated to victims of sexual assault. The new room in the ED includes an exam room, private shower, and separate seating area designed with the patient in mind, providing a healing and compassionate environment of care so the patient feels safe and supported. 

Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) are certified through a structured 40-hour didactic training with an additional 15 to 20 hours of hands-on clinical training before being fully trained as SANE nurses. SLU Hospital currently has 14 active SANE nurses on staff with several more nurses eager to complete the training. 

Kathryn Harvath, a SANE nurse at SLU Hospital, says the new room, “has soft lighting, blankets, snacks, and beverages with a private bathroom so the victim can take a shower before they leave.  We also give them a change of clothes to help them feel safe and secure and supported.” 

Kathryn says while it is unfortunate that SANE nurses are in demand, she is very proud that SSM Health Saint Louis University is the only hospital with a dedicated room to help these victims feel cared for and heard. 

“Victims of violence have very specific needs. We want to treat them in a trauma-informed way. These patients have been through a traumatic event,” she said. “We need to be able to help them in any way they need to be helped so they can go forward from this event.” 

The space helps the nurses build rapport and gives the patients a private space to be interviewed by law enforcement or social workers to get the patients the resources they need outside of medical care. The patients need to feel listened to, and having a space that is comfortable and warm allows patients can feel supported after a traumatic event. 

SANE nurses are able to focus on evidence collection, treat injuries that may have happened during the assault, and offer medications like STD prevention, emergency contraception, and HIV medications. 

SLU Hospital SANE nurses and social workers collaborate with SART which is the Sexual Response Team through the YWCA as well as the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Sex Crimes Division. 

“I’m just glad that we have a specially trained team of dedicated nurses who know how to meet their needs and know how to deal with victims of violence,” Harvath said.

To learn more about the newly renovated SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital, click here

The SSM Health Medical Minute airs Wednesdays on News 11 at 7 p.m. and FOX 2 News at 9 p.m.

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