Illinois Considers Adding Nurses to Work with Sexual Assault Victims

Specialized positions are focus of legislative effort

Out of almost 200,000 registered nurses in the state of Illinois, only 32 are International Association of Forensic Nurses-certified to work with adult sexual assault victims.

If the state Attorney General’s office has a say, that number could be set to grow exponentially.

Drafted legislation proposes that hospitals should have a trained expert available within 90 minutes of a patient’s arrival. If the legislation passes, Illinois hospitals will be expected to be in compliance by 2023.

The Illinois Health and Hospital Association has expressed concern over whether this allows enough time to train a sufficient number of nurses. Aside from learning to conduct genital examination and record specific injuries, experts would also need to be trained in methods of conversation that avoid belittling or worsening the patient’s trauma.

Kerry O’Connor is one of the 32 nurses currently certified in Illinois to work with sexual assault victims.

“I want them to feel like they’re in control,” she said. “I don’t want them to feel like someone forcibly did this to me, and now I’m in a medical setting where someone is doing what they think should be done.”

Some 4,500 Illinois residents sought treatment in emergency rooms in 2016 for alleged, suspected, or confirmed sexual assault, according to the State Department of Health.

SOURCE: Miami Herald

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