Platte Valley launches program to help victims of sexual assault and domestic violence

Amanda Alvarez, Amanda Sturgeon, April Vialpando, Sarah White, Andrea Moore, Jenny Sanchez and Jessi Weaver. Missing was Amy Wallace, Kurt Gensert and Kelsie Romero.

On January 2, Platte Valley launched the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program in its Emergency Department. The program provides a critical, compassionate service for victims through specially trained nursing staff, equipment, and specialized patient care facilities to treat and collect forensic evidence from victims who have experienced sexual violence and domestic abuse. 

The program enables patients to get treatment customized for assault survivors and collect forensic evidence so that they have the evidence if they choose to report the crime.  

Platte Valley is one of the few hospitals in Colorado to offer this program and anticipates more than 400 patients will be treated in the unit this year. The Platte Valley team will evaluate patients 18 years and older affected by violence including sexual assault, domestic violence and strangulation. A SANE nurse will now be available from 1 p.m. - 1:30 a.m. seven days a week. 

“We serve a large area, and this is a severely underserved population,” said Andrea Moore, Platte Valley ED director. “Our team has put a lot into this, and we’re excited to be able to help these patients who need this type of care. This is not just about evidence collection. There is a psychological and social aspect that comes with this type of treatment, and we want to ensure these patients have the resources and follow-up care they need after going through something so traumatic.” 

Six emergency room nurses completed extensive training to become certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. The certification included 64 hours of online training, 16 hours of hands-on clinical training with patients and UCHealth educators, and 12-24 hours of experience with SANE nurses to get exposure to what the team will experience with patients at Platte Valley. 

The program is funded by grants for the first year and represents a partnership with area police departments, courts, district attorney's offices and special victim's units. If a patient chooses to report the crime, forensic evidence collected by Platte Valley’s SANE program will provide an important resource for the police investigation and successful prosecution in the courts, if the survivor chooses to press charges.  

“When I was approached by the Adams County District Attorney’s office about the lack of victim services and support in this area, our leadership team knew immediately that we needed to be part of the solution,” said Jaime Campbell, Platte Valley president. “It is sobering how significant the need is in our primary service area, which is much larger than the city limits of Brighton. As a community healthcare organization, it is an honor to be helping those who need it the most at such a traumatic time, in partnership with all first responders and victim services providers. The need for continued funding and resources will be critical to sustain these efforts.” 

Kurt Gensert, chief nursing officer and chief operating officer, is the executive sponsor; Andrea Moore is overseeing the effort and helped build the program; Dr. Sarah White is the medical director for the program; and April Vialpando is coordinating the daily operations. There are currently six ED nurses trained to perform this service and be a part of the forensic prosecution process. 

The team created a designated SANE room in the ED that has an attached private bathroom and shower, a consult room and a backup gynecological room. They also invested in new equipment including additional supplies, a camera and a video monitor for nurses who may need remote assistance. 

“There are so many moving parts to this program,” Andrea said. “We’ve evaluated the needs and are updating rooms, lockers, refrigerators, policies and processes, drug regimens, follow-up care, and physician and provider support. This was a huge effort, with a multidisciplinary approach, and we’re proud to be able to offer this service to our patients in Brighton and the surrounding communities.”