Port Hardy Hospital is now able to offer Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNE) with specialized training to provide extra support and compassionate care for victims of sexual assault or relationship violence.
“Sexual assault can cause trauma and long-lasting emotional distress and it’s important to make sure supports are in place to help people affected and so they know they are not alone,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
The FNE program launched in Port Hardy in December, 2016. Since then, six nurses at Port Hardy Hospital have completed additional training that allows them to provide medical care and collect forensic evidence from patients aged 13 and over within seven days of experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence.
Dix stated that, “By adding more trained examiners the Forensic Nurse Examiner program will help those in the North Island who have suffered abuse get the proper care and understanding from a health professional that is trained for these situations.”
“We want people in the North Island to know that support is available for anyone who may experience this kind of trauma,” says Aimee Falkenberg, who coordinates the Forensic Nurse Examiner program for Island Health in the Central and North Island region.
Hospital staff who are part of the FNE program are nurses first and foremost, committed to providing compassionate medical care and support to people coping with trauma.
Additional training allows them to collect forensic evidence that can either be shared immediately with the RCMP or stored for up to one year.
Decisions about collecting evidence and reporting an incident to police are entirely up to the patient.
FNEs are there to explain care options and support their patients, says Falkenberg. “We listen to their needs - it’s non-judgemental.”
The FNE program at Port Hardy Hospital is modelled after those run at other small rural hospitals on Vancouver Island. If a Forensic Nurse Examiner is not working when a person arrives at the Emergency Department, one will be called in. If an FNE is not immediately available the Emergency Department staff will provide the appropriate medical care and arrange for the patient to return.
FNE’s can provide specialized support to patients 13 and over, of any gender, within seven days of experiencing a sexual assault or relationship violence. They also work with health, social and legal services to make sure survivors are supported beyond the examination room.
Anyone who has experienced a sexual assault or intentional violence can access care at their nearest Emergency Department. Additional support is also available through the Vancouver Island Crisis Line at 1-888-494-3888. Information about the Forensic Nursing program is also available at www.viha.ca