Wesley Medical Center has implemented a new program for victims of sexual assault, according to the hospital.
The program will utilize 13 specially trained registered nurses called sexual assault nurse examiners who can assess patients, help prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, collect forensic evidence and document patient injuries.
“We just want to make sure everyone knows this is just an additional resource for victims of sexual assault,” said Karen Wilson-Diehl, assistant nurse manager for the program. “Our main goal here is to provide a private and calming area for them.”
When a patient arrives at Wesley Medical Center’s emergency department, a trained nurse can be called at any time, along with an advocate from the Wichita Area Sexual Assault Center.
Wesley eventually hopes to expand to its other facilities in town.
“Because Wesley is known as a women’s and pediatric hospital, the administration felt like it needed this service,” said Wilson-Diehl, who previously worked in Via Christi’s forensic nursing program.
The nurses will work with members of the area Sexual Assault Response Team, which is made up of social workers, law enforcement, advocates and district attorneys.
To be a part of the program, nurses must take 40 hours of specialized courses and go through three to six months of orientation with an experienced nurse examiner, Wilson-Diehl said.
Patients are assigned a case number from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation for a full evidence kit. The kit is sent to the KBI under the case number to ensure anonymity, and it’s stored for up to five years. No patient information is disclosed.
If the victim chooses to report the crime during the five years, law enforcement can access the kit, according to the release.
Kansas law requires the county where the assault occurs to pay for the evidence collection and exam. However, if a patient needs additional medical attention such as lab work or medication, it’s billed through insurance, Wilson-Diehl said.
“I’m very happy to see this,” said Lt. Randy Reynolds of the Sex Crimes Unit for the Wichita Police Department. “It provides better service to the victims as before it was just one location at St. Joseph for sexual assault exams. Now they have the option for either” Wesley or Via Christi Hospital on Harry. Wesley anticipates at least 175 patients will use the program in the first year.
Reynolds said that the number of sexual assaults reported for adults and juveniles in Wichita is up slightly over the average for the last five years. The average has been 244 reported sexual assaults. For 2012, there were 259 reported incidents.
However, part of that increase is due to changes in what police classify as a sexual assault, Reynolds said. The new classification includes reports of males who are victims and of females who report anal or oral assault.