What is a SANE?
SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. A SANE “...provides specialized care for patients who are victims and/or perpetrators of trauma (both intentional and unintentional). Forensic Nurses are NURSES first and foremost. However, the specialized role of forensic nurses goes far beyond medical care; forensic nurses also have a specialized knowledge of the legal system and skills in injury identification, evaluation and documentation. After attending to a patient’s immediate medical needs, a forensic nurse often collects evidence, provides medical testimony in court, and consults with legal authorities.” (International Association of Forensic Nurses, Frequently Asked Questions, https://www.forensicnurses.org/page/FNFAQs)
What may happen during a Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE)?
This list contains items that may or may not be a part of the SAFE exam as a shared decision that is determined by the SANE and the patient.
- Take the account of what happened from the patient, in addition to other information that is relevant, for evidence collection
- Obtain the patient’s clothing that they were wearing during the assault
- Conduct a thorough medical exam which may include: assessing for injuries (including strangulation), genital exams, swabs, taking blood, taking photographs of injuries, etc.
- Offer preventative care for STIs/HIV/pregnancy
- The exam can take anywhere from 4-6 hours
- Once the SANE begins the exam, they cannot leave the evidence, for this would break the chain of custody
- Forensic evidence collections are typically performed up to 120 hours after an assault; however, circumstances determine extension of this timeframe. Patients may have physical exams to assess for injuries and determine medical needs beyond 120 hours
What are the benefits of having a SANE?
While a non-SANE nurse can conduct a forensic exam (with the help of a physician), it is ideal for a SANE nurse to perform the exam due to their specialized training. They have been trained in providing trauma-informed care to those who have experienced violence, as well as knowing what specific injuries to look for and proper documentation of evidence. They also are going to make for more credible expert witnesses if the case goes to trial and they need to testify.
Having a SANE program in your community also sends a message to survivors that your community prioritizes the needs of those who have experienced sexual assault and shows support and care for survivors. This may lead to more survivors seeking medical care following an assault and potentially more reports of sexual violence.
How do I become a SANE?
Before you can be a SANE, you must first be a registered nurse. North Carolina Registered Nurses who wish to practice as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) in North Carolina are required to successfully complete:
- a NC Board of Nursing approved SANE education/training program composed of 40 didactic hours, and
- a minimum of 16 clinical practice hours, performing sexual assault examinations with evidence collection and documentation under the supervision of a SANE or with a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant with experience in providing care for patients experiencing sexual assault
The NC Board of Nursing requirements for SANE practice may be found at Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner | North Carolina Board of Nursing (ncbon.com). Approved North Carolina programs are listed under Program Listings.
Resources for SANEs
- Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner - NC Board of Nursing - Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner | North Carolina Board of Nursing (ncbon.com)
- International Association of Forensic Nurses – NC Chapter - North Carolina Forensic Nursing | NCforensicnurses (wixsite.com)
- International Association of Forensic Nurses - International Association of Forensic Nurses