UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Having access to high-quality, sexual-assault care is vital, especially during these uncertain times. Penn State’s Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth (SAFE-T) Center is continuing to provide support to sexual-assault nurse examiners in local hospitals across the commonwealth, through their innovative telehealth solution, which allows nurse examiners to partner with local-site nurses during live exams.
UPMC Williamsport is the latest site to come aboard as part of a $2.4 million grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime And Delinquency to expand the SAFE-T Center’s program to more regions across the state. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this site launch looks different. There is no in-person gathering to mark the event and the SAFE-T team had to get creative during Williamsport’s onboarding process.
In-person training for the Williamsport nurses had been scheduled for early March. When Penn State’s University Park Campus closed due to COVID-19, this training had to be canceled.
“Our team was able to pivot to adapt our training to a virtual format quickly,” said Faith Mong, clinical education and training program manager. “How hospitals respond to sexual assaults is critically important, and our team was happy to work with Williamsport to find an innovative solution to get their site ready to launch.”
A group of Williamsport nurses have completed a 40-hour SANE training course and completed virtual coursework and hands on clinical skills led by the SAFE-T Center team. Utilizing contact-less delivery, the SAFE-T team was able to provide the specialized telehealth equipment to UMPC Williamsport, and their IT office was also able to work with the SAFE-T Center team remotely to get the equipment up and running.
With the addition of UMPC Williamsport, the SAFE-T Center has partnered with seven hospitals across Pennsylvania.
At other partner sites, the SAFE-T Center project is being lauded for creating a culture supportive of nurses, and local-site nurses feel empowered and confident in their clinical skills. In the communities where the SAFE-T Center has partnered, advocates, law enforcement agencies and district attorney offices, also see the benefits of the SAFE-T Center and report that patients are increasingly connecting to community services for after-assault care.
“We are proud to be serving these communities across the state. It is our hope the SAFE-T Center model continues to be supported and scaled to ensure a sustainable solution to high-quality, sexual-assault care in PA,” said Sheridan Miayamoto, assistant professor of nursing, principal investigator and director of the SAFE-T Center, Penn State.
An in-person event at UPMC Williamsport will be planned for a later date.
About the SAFE-T Center
The SAFE-T Center was launched in 2016 with support from the Department of Justice, Office for Victims of Crime to enhance access to high-quality, sexual-assault care in underserved communities. When a sexual-assault examination is performed at one of the SAFE-T Center’s partner hospitals, one of center’s expert nurses participates through telehealth. The expert nurse appears on a screen where she can talk to, and support, both the on-site nurse and the patient. Through the center's specialized digital telehealth technology, the expert nurse can also see the live exam in progress, ensuring best practices, proper evidence collection and a safe, helpful environment for the patient.
Other co-principal investigators from Penn State are Lorna Dorn, professor of nursing; Daniel Perkins, founder and principal scientist of the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness and professor of youth and family resiliency and policy; Dennis Scanlon, distinguished professor of health policy and administration and director of the Center for Health Care and Policy Research; and Diane Berish, assistant research professor of nursing.