Penn State Health St. Joseph launches telehealth program for sexual assault survivors
Penn State Health St. Joseph hospital is launching a partnership with SAFE-T Systems to use telehealth technology and evidence-based training to care for sexual assault survivors.
The partnership aims to deliver a comprehensive sexual assault care program, combining trauma-informed care and telehealth technology to treat injuries, perform medical examinations, collect evidence and report incidents of sexual assault to law enforcement.
Aiming to serve rural and underserved communities, SAFE-T Systems uses telehealth technology and evidenced-based training to facilitate the development of locally-based sexual assault treatment teams, Penn State Health said in a press release.
Registered nurses who have completed sexual assault nurse examiner training will provide a trauma-informed approach for those seeking treatment after a sexual assault.
These nurses, on-call for the emergency department 24/7, will conduct forensic exams and provide emotional support and expert legal testimony, all within a cultural and developmentally appropriate framework specific to each patient, Penn State Health said.
“St. Joseph Medical Center has always prioritized giving these patients a safe space for examination and to process their trauma,” said Ruth Sano, director of critical care and emergency services at St. Joseph.
Nurses will work with victims to explain their options, including reporting to law enforcement; medical examination and documentation of injuries; evidence collection; infection prevention or treatment; and referrals to community resources and follow-up care for a holistic approach, officials said.
Launched with support from the Office for Victims of Crime in the U.S. Department of Justice, SAFE-T Systems is a group within Penn State’s Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing and is present in health systems across Pennsylvania.
Three other Penn State Health hospitals also partner with SAFE-T Systems. Milton S. Hershey Medical Center launched a partnership in 2019 with funding from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency. Hampden and Holy Spirit medical centers joined in 2022.