Northeast Tennessee faces shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners

SULLIVAN COUNTY, TN (WJHL) – There is a shortage of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners – or SANE nurses – in Northeast Tennessee.

It’s an ongoing problem for not only the region but across the nation.

A SANE nurse’s job falls under the umbrella of forensic nursing. They conduct interviews, gather evidence and coordinate with law enforcement.

Some are trained to help adolescents and adults ages 13 and over while a separate group helps child victims of sexual assault, which is from 0 to 12 years of age.

Tessa Proffitt knows how important the job is, she’s been a trained SANE nurse for over ten years.

“I would love to have more nurses that would be amazing,” said Proffitt.

Because right now, she said, the Northeast Tennessee region does not have enough.

“We don’t want victims to have to wait and we don’t want to have to tell them ‘I’m sorry that service is not available,’” Proffitt said.

Proffitt said according to the Tennessee Board of Health, there are close to 90 thousand registered nurses in the state. Thirty of them are certified to help adolescent and adult victims, 10 for pediatrics, and five who are dually certified.

“I am the only one in Northeast Tennessee, I think the next closest one to us practices in Knoxville,” she said.

That’s for dual certification, meaning Proffitt is the only person who is on call to respond to both adult and child victims in the region. If she can’t make it, she said, “Any healthcare provider can collect an evidence kit and a rape kit.”

She said the reason for the shortage is because of tedious training.

“It will take an average nurse about a year once they complete the classroom portion to do the clinical portion of it,” Proffitt said.

To address the need, Proffitt is working with the Family Justice Center in Sullivan County, which will hold two information sessions next month.

“It will be an opportunity for people to say ‘hey this is something that I’m interested in what does it entail? How many classes do I need to take?’”

They are also hoping to coordinate the necessary training later this year.

Those information sessions will be held March 14th at the Family Justice Center training and planning building on Blountville Bypass. One is scheduled for 10 a.m. and another for 7:30 p.m.

Copyright 2017 WJHL. All rights reserved.

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