WSU supports state bill to expand sexual assault nurse training

Bill passes in House, moves to Senate

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ANISSA CHAK

“Making sure we have proper training will actually increase the number of nurses in the hospital who will be able to perform these procedures,” Maycumber said.

PUNEET BSANTI

Editor’s note: This article contains material that may be triggering for some readers.

In Washington state, there is only one hospital where victims of rape or sexual assault can go to be seen by a nurse with sexual assault training; however, WSU is supporting a state bill that will implement sexual assault nurse examiners all over the state.

HB 1622, or the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner bill, would establish online and clinical training at the WSU College of Nursing for sexual assault nurse examiners. This bill was introduced by Rep. Gina Mosbrucker, who represents Washington’s 14th Legislative District. She said she was concerned to learn in 2017 that Harborview Medical Center in Seattle is the only place where victims of rape and sexual assault could go for this type of care.

“We’ve spent four years trying to fix that. But in reality, we, unfortunately, have rapes on our side of the state too, and the east side, not just the west side,” Mosbrucker said. “It’s really important to make sure that we have access to SANE nurses.”

Mosbrucker said she heard stories of victims who would have to drive a few hours, usually right after the assault, just to go to a SANE nurse in Seattle. However, sometimes there would not be a nurse available.

“It’s an equity issue. we need access not just in one area, but in the whole state,” she said. 

A lot of the work tied to the SANE bill is because of untested rape kits, Mosbrucker said. A lot of the survivors thought they went to the hospital and got tested with the correct rape kit. But in the end, the kits never got tested for evidence. The victims of those untested rape kits were able to present their testimony for the SANE bill.

“It’s really traumatizing and re-traumatizing to knock on the door of a survivor who thought their kit was tested, but in reality they just never found the person who harmed them,” she said.

Mosbrucker has done a lot of work with these rape kits and helped set up a lab in Vancouver to test those kits. Before the lab, there were around 10,000 untested rape kits in the state of Washington, and now there are around 3,900, she said.

Rep. Jacquelin Maycumber, who represents Washington’s 7th Legislative District, is also sponsoring the SANE bill. Maycumber started supporting the bill when Mosbrucker brought it to the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. She said that after listening to the testimony of women who waited 16 hours after rape for medical assistance, she was shocked. Maycumber wanted to make sure she was supportive of this bill both as a sponsor and with her vote in the committee.

“I’m a little shocked that this has gone on for this long and that there are some places that don’t have SANE nurses for 100 miles, if not more,” Maycumber said. 

WSU is known for being the largest producer of nurses in Washington, with schools located in Spokane, Tri-Cities and Yakima, said Chris Mulick, WSU director of state relations, in an article on WSU’s Government Relations website.

“I didn’t know much about SANE nurses. I did look it up and research it, but other than that, I haven’t heard anything about it,” said Emilie Noeske, a student in the WSU College of Nursing in Yakima. “This topic is something that could be talked about more; however, we don’t focus on it at nursing school.”

Maycumber said SANE nurses have no funding for their training.

“Making sure we have proper training will actually increase the number of nurses in the hospital who will be able to perform these procedures,” she said.

On Jan. 26, the SANE bill was passed unanimously in the House of Representatives, and legislators are waiting for the bill to be passed in the Senate, Mosbrucker said. If passed, the governor must sign the bill, and it takes effect after 90 days. 

They are also waiting for the appropriation to take effect, she said. An appropriation is the funding for a bill. Once it is approved, WSU can start with the SANE training.

If the SANE bill is approved by the state Senate, she will be able to take this nationally to Washington, D.C., Mosbrucker said. 

“There’s just a lot that we’re learning, and we’re learning this because of the survivors who are brave enough to help tell the story of the most horrific day of their life,” she said.