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Nurse service key to sexual assault care

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Nurse-led specialist services for survivors of sexual assault significantly improve patient care, research has confirmed.

Many hospitals have specially trained on-call nurses who deal with sexual assault but researchers from Canada’s Queen’s University said there was previously little research on their impact on patient care.

The team studied all patients presenting at two A&E departments in Kingston, Ontario, before and after the implementation of a sexual assault/domestic violence programme (SADVP).

Following the introduction of the programme, a specially trained SADVP nurse would be notified when a patient reported sexual assault.

The SADVP nurse would meet the patient in A&E and take them to a secure examination room away from A&E. This nurse would then take a clinical history, perform a forensic examination – including sample collection and injury documentation – and provide STD and pregnancy prophylaxis.

The researchers found that introduction of the SADVP decreased waiting times for sexually assaulted patients from over half an hour to around 20 minutes, and almost 80% of forensic kits were completed in the post-SADVP group compared with 66% before. Pregnancy and STD prophylaxis were also offered more consistently – 98% compared with 85%.

‘This study shows that a primarily nursing-based programme improves the quality of care provided to victims of sexual assault,’ the authors said online in the Journal of Emergency Nursing.

Bernie Ryan, service manager at the St Mary’s sexual assault referral centre (SARC) in Manchester, one of 19 sexual assault referral centres in England and Wales, said: ‘A&E nurses can be trained to take early evidence, such as urine or mouth swabs, but victims of sexual violence have a range of needs and a busy emergency department is not really conducive to providing the support they need, especially at this early stage.

‘At the initial contact, they need a specially trained nurse who is knowledgeable and suitably trained to respond sensitively,’ she added.

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