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Identifying the Need for Forensic Education to Support School-based Nursing Practice

By Kristin Beers, MSN, RN, SANE posted 03-05-2024 15:02


Kristin Beers, MSN, RN, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner for Adolescents and Adults 

Long before becoming familiar with terms like intersectionality, sexual assault nurse examiner, or even the specialty of forensic nursing, I recognized that the heart of nursing lies in making connections. School nurses understand that our clinics are where healing begins, embracing every type of diversity and honoring individuality.

In my dual role as a school nurse and a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), I often find myself as a trusted adult students come to visit. With 23 years experience as a school nurse and 7 years as a SANE, disclosures from students regarding adverse childhood events, interpersonal violence, or trafficking can still make me feel like a novice, regardless of my forensic knowledge and experience.

It's crucial to acknowledge that students impacted by violence do exist in our schools more commonly than you believe, as highlighted by these statistics:

  • Every 9 minutes, child protective services (CPS) substantiate a claim of child sexual abuse.
  • 1:9 girls and 1:20 boys will experience sexual abuse or assault before the age of eighteen. Females aged 16-19 are four times more likely than the general population to experience rape, attempted rape, or assault.
  • In 88% of the sexual abuse claims that CPS substantiates or finds supporting evidence of, the perpetrator is male. In 9% of cases, they are female, and 3% are unknown.
  • Ninety-three percent of the perpetrators are known to the victim. 59% percent are acquaintances, and 34% are family members who you, as the school nurse, may have encountered or know well. (Statistics source: RAINN)

Among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2021:

  • Thirty percent had ever had intercourse.
  • Eight percent had been physically forced to have sex when they did not want to. (Source: CDC)

The good news is you don't need to complete 40 hours of didactic training to provide compassionate, trauma-informed care. Coordinated interventions early in a diagnosis can significantly improve outcomes.

The goal of this poster presentation and discussion is twofold. First, we conducted a needs assessment to evaluate the knowledge, experience, and comfort level of school nurses when providing care to students impacted by violence and trauma. Second, we identified forensic education and resources to assist non-SANEs in the school setting to be prepared when, not if, a student reports a situation and requires safe, equitable, quality forensic nursing care that will provide optimal health, learning, safety, and legal outcomes.