UNE's grant to boost Maine's Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) workforce renewed for three more years

Image of nursing students tending to simulation patient
UNE was the only institution in New England to initially receive the award in 2018.

The University of New England’s three-year grant to educate and train nurses to become Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) has been renewed for another three years.

In the fall of 2018, UNE received a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) to increase the number of nurses in Maine who are competent to respond to survivors across the lifespan who have suffered sexual assault/abuse.

Additional money from the grant renewal will build on the work done to enhance recruitment and retention of forensic nurses throughout the state.

The Advanced Nursing Education Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program is a private/public partnership between the University and the statewide Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Program at the Office of Child and Family Services within the Maine Department of Health and Human Services.

UNE was the only institution in New England to receive the award in 2018, and remains the only such program in New England.

The grant has strengthened the state’s existing innovative SANE training program by increasing its reach and impact through offering additional courses and through novel approaches to underserved areas. SANE adult, adolescent, and pediatric education and trainings were initially offered through in-person sessions and now through a technologically savvy and seamless hybrid model that includes both in-person and online formats.

Since 2019, and despite altered 2020 scheduling due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 124 Maine registered nurses (RNs) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) have participated in SANE courses and are now pursuing or have already achieved SANE credentialing. Of that total, 103 (83%) are from Maine’s underserved rural areas.

The state’s 30 hospitals have served as clinical training sites.

Additional successes include increased education and training for nurses to become state-credentialed forensic nurses; an increased number of course offerings; a boost of clinical simulation to teach nurses how to complete forensic exams on patients who are survivors of sexual assault; targeted expansion into rural areas; and exploration into telehealth.

Notably, the program began using SANE Telehealth in a structured way where an experienced forensic nurse enters an examination room remotely to assist a less experienced forensic nurse through the medical forensic exam. The patient gets two nurses providing care, and the new forensic nurses receive the support needed and gain confidence and competence in their practice.

Notably, the program implemented SANE TeleECHO (Extension for Community Health Care Outcomes), a case-based learning forum that gathers a community of practice for didactic learning and case review. This promotes support for the forensic nurses and improves decision making and collaborative problem solving, while also addressing the emotional challenges of caring for this patient population, said Polly Campbell, RN, B.S., B.A., director of the Advanced Nursing Education Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner Program.

SANE TeleECHO is the first of its kind in the world and has gained international recognition.

“The overall goals of this grant were to increase the number and capacity of SANE nurses in the state and also to provide support mechanisms to reduce the amount of attrition and burnout,” said Jennifer Morton, D.N.P., M.P.H., PHNA-BC, director of the School of Nursing and Population Health. “We really achieved both of those goals.”

The next iteration of the SANE grant will be to expand on existing successes, Morton said. One goal for the next iteration of the grant is to engage more nursing school alumni in becoming forensic nurses.

Two alumni have gone through the training, Morton said, and have become credentialed by the state.