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First students near end of SANE training course


The first cohort of participants in a program aimed at nearly doubling the number of nurses trained to treat survivors of sexual assault in Michigan will wrap up coursework in April, and the next cohort is already underway.

Intertest in the program, run by the Michigan State University College of Nursing, has been big. To date, participants have come from all over the state, including the rural Upper Peninsula. Each cohort has roughly 20 participants and the plan is train eight cohorts by the end of the three-year, $1.43 million federal grant.

“It is in inspiring to see so many nurses who want to receive the training to better treat survivors of sexual assault in their communities,” said Dr. Katherine Dontje, an associate professor in the College of Nursing, who is spearheading the program. “This program aims to get more Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) into the parts of the state that need them, and I can say the early results look promising.”

The program began in January and focuses on ensuring more registered nurses have their SANE certification, particularly in rural areas. SANE-certified nurses have specialized knowledge and clinical preparation in treatment of sexual assault survivors.

Currently, the state has roughly 175 SANE-trained nurses; however, they are concentrated in only 22 of the state’s 83 counties. This program will train an additional 130 nurses who are already employed in communities across the state, ensuring rural areas have access to these services.

Participants engage in online coursework, an in-person clinical workshop and are paired with a mentor for additional clinical hours and experiences to meet the certification requirements. In addition, nurses who have already taken the coursework but need the clinical hours can partner with the College of Nursing to secure the required training.

The program is already receiving rave reviews from participants.

“I have been a nurse for more than 10 years. Becoming a SANE has been the dream for at least half of those years, but opportunities are unfortunately few and far between in Michigan. Our group is not only learning the core foundation of being SANEs, but we are also being exposed to the many ethical and practical issues that surround SANE programs. I am so grateful for this opportunity,” wrote one student.

The college has worked closely with Dr. Rebecca Campbell, a professor in the MSU College of Social Science and advisor to the president on relationship violence and sexual misconduct (RVSM) issues, to write the grant and she will serve as the project’s research evaluator. The project will include several partners across the university, including the Michigan Center for Rural Health and the MSU Center for Survivors. In addition, the university will work with state agencies, including the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, to ensure the right people and areas receive the training, which, typically, takes two years to complete.

The effort is a natural extension of the university’s recently announced Relationship Violence and Sexual Misconduct strategic plan, which aims to increase help-seeking rates and decrease the incidence of RVSM by developing trauma-informed, intersectional programs to address the needs of MSU’s diverse communities.