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According to beckershospitalreview.com, a 2016 study conducted by the US Government Accountability Office analyzed six states and found that the number of sexual assault nurse examiners in those states did not meet the demand for exams, especially in rural areas.
Women often have to travel to find a sexual assault nurse examiner to collect physical evidence of their assault. In a case in 2014, one woman went to the hospital after being raped, but found there wasn’t a trained sexual assault nurse examiner available to help her. She went to another hospital 30 minutes away the next day, but prosecutors later cited the delay in collecting evidence as the reason they didn’t charge her attacker.
After hearing this story, US Senator Patty Murray introduced the Survivors’ Access to Supportive Care Act in 2016, which would fund state-level surveys to identify areas with the biggest shortages of sexual assault nurse examiners, increase access to sexual assault nurse examiner training, and establish national standards of care for sexual assault victims. This legislation has been introduced every year since 2016, but has not yet passed.
Other states are looking for alternatives to ensure rape victims have access to adequately trained nurses as well. The Massachusetts Department of Public Health used a federal grant to set up a national telenursing center which allows sexual assault nurse examiners to consult via video with clinicians in rural, tribal, and naval hospitals. In 2019, Illinois passed a law that requires rape victims to be seen by sexual assault nurse examiners within 90 minutes of their arrival to a hospital, which will take effect in 2022.
To learn more about how states are working to find their own solutions to the nationwide shortage of sexual assault nurse examiners, visit here.
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