Pennsylvania Rural Health Magazine Showcase

Sheridan Miyamoto, Ph.D., FNP, RN, assistant professor in the Penn State College of Nursing, is principle investigator for an innovative project designed to use telehealth to ensure positive, timely, and thorough forensic examinations for victims of sexual assault in rural communities. The Sexual Assault Forensic Examination and Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center, supported by a $4.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, partners with rural communities to provide mentoring, education, and support for nurses who provide examinations to victims of sexual assault.

“Nurses in rural communities usually find themselves introduced to forensic examinations in the emergency room,” explained Miyamoto. “Though sexual assault rates tend to be higher in rural areas, there is not necessarily enough volume, which means there are not enough opportunities for nurses to attain proficiency at conducting these technically challenging examinations. This can cause anxiety for both the victim and the attending nurse.”

Forensic examinations are conducted to thoroughly evaluate an individual who has experienced trauma by assessing, documenting, and treating injuries; addressing infection prevention and reproductive health; providing resources for mental health needs; and collecting evidence that can be used in court to aid prosecution. “Through a high-definition camera and videoconferencing technology, experienced Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE) can attend the examination to guide and support the nurse in the room,” Miyamoto said. “The Penn State consultant nurse team, made up of SANE-trained nurses across the state, will be available 24/7. In the meantime, the program is helping nurses in rural communities enhance and develop their skills so they can become the local experts.”