The Western Region Public Health Training Center at the University of Arizona Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, in collaboration with the UA College of Nursing, has received a $1.49 million, three-year federal grant to provide sexual assault nurse examiners training and certification to expand services to sexual assault victims in rural areas.
Sexual assault nurse examiners are registered nurses who have completed specialized education and clinical preparation in the medical forensic care of patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse. The regional training center provides free training and continuing education for the public health workforce in Region 9 of the Health Resources and Services Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, covering the states of Arizona, California, Nevada, Hawaii and the U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands.
In Region 9, many rural communities lack access to certified sexual assault nurse examiners. The funding for the training program is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration Advanced Nurse Education Sexual Nurse Assault Examiner program.
“We focus on the areas that have limited resources to obtain training,” said Douglas Taren, PhD, professor and associate dean of academic programs at the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health and director of the Western Region Public Health Training Center. “In addition to training nurses, we will work with local authorities to strengthen the infrastructure to provide individuals access to sexual assault exams and support for our students to work with local schools and community organizations to educate the public about relationship violence and sexual assault.”
Faculty members from the UA College of Nursing will teach the online courses. The curriculum will prepare practicing registered nurses and graduate nursing students for the International Association of Forensic Nurses exam.
“Nurses require special training to effectively manage the nuances of working with individuals who have been sexually assaulted,” said Rene Love, PhD, clinical associate professor and director of the Doctor of Nursing Practice program at the College of Nursing. “The UA College of Nursing is very excited to collaborate with the UA Zuckerman College of Public Health to promote this training and education in rural and underserved areas so that nurses can be prepared to provide sexual assault examinations. The training can be completed online, but two of our qualified faculty members also visit underserved areas to provide on-the-ground training in areas that need it most.”
Abigail Stoica, associate director of the Western Region Public Health Training Center, said more than 138,000 public health professionals have registered for courses through the center since 2015.
“The Western Region Public Health Training Center is an incredible resource for health departments and community agencies throughout the United States,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins, MD. “The collaboration between the College of Public Health and the College of Nursing allows for the sharing of resources that will help nurses better serve rural communities. While it is crucial that we work toward prevention of sexual assault, it is vitally important that there are nurses who are specifically trained to work with people who have experienced sexual assault or abuse, and I am very proud of this program. It is a perfect example of our university’s commitment to improve and protect the health of people here in Arizona and across the nation.”
Patricia Haynes, PhD, CBSM, associate professor and licensed clinical psychologist, and Lisa Zhang, applications systems analyst and developer at the College of Public Health, will work to develop online methods to support the mental health of the students in the program who in turn work with victims of sexual assault.