Owensboro Health receives grant to train nurses for sexual assault survivors

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Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 6:30 PM CST
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OWENSBORO, Ky. (WFIE) - The Owensboro Health Foundation received a $500,000 grant from the Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime for Owensboro Health Regional Hospital to become a training center for Sexual Assault Examiner Nurses.

The facility was one of just five sites in the nation that received grants for the Expanding Access to Sexual Assault Forensic Exams (SAFE) program.

Rhonda Bergstrom is the Director of Nursing Emergency Services at Owensboro Regional Hospital, and she says they’re ecstatic to be able to train nurses on dealing with sexual assault survivors in their own building, and serve their community.

“This is an incredible need in our area,” says Bergstrom, “there are zero training sites west of Louisville right now to train these sexual assault nurses.”

She says amid the nursing shortage in America, it’s especially important to have these men and women available who can specialize.

“What we have are emergency nurses who, they know how to get the job done, but what they don’t have is that extra competent,” says Bergstrom, “number one, time. When we call in a sexual assault nurse, that nurse is one-to-one with that survivor for the completion of the process.”

The nurses that come out of this program, according to Bergstrom and the Owensboro Health Foundation Grants and Research Specialist Deanna Sandefur, can make sure that any survivors are confident that they’ll receive the best possible treatment, and they can ensure that any evidence collected during exams is viable and admissible in court.

“It’s something that’s very needed in this area, and it will train not only folks in Owensboro Health facilities, but will also train folks at surrounding facilities,” says Sandefur, “so no matter what county you’re in, if you’re sexually assaulted, hopefully you’ll be able to go to the nearest facility and obtain the services that you need.”

They say training for the nurses will begin this spring, and they hope that more survivors will come forward, knowing that there are people available in their area who are experts in caring for them and getting them the help they need.

Part of that grant money is going to New Beginnings in order to educate the region about the support one of these nurses can provide, and encourage sexual assault survivors to come forward.