Nearly 1,000 sexual offense Crimes were committed in North Dakota in 2018. And every time, a victim is in need of help immediately.
After someone is raped or sexually assaulted, they need to be seen by a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE nurse, within 72 hours. Evidence needs to be collected and STD testing has to be done.
SANE Nurses are on-call 24/7 to meet a patient at the hospital at the drop of a hat. And to keep all of this going, they need outside funding.
Robin Pursifull is one of eight nurses with non-profit Dakota Forensic Nurse Examiners in Bismarck and Minot. She travels between the two cities multiple times a week.
One of their biggest priorities with this year’s funds is training more nurses.
Pursifull adds, “Oh absolutely, there’s always a shortage of SANEs.”
So where does the money come from?
Pursifull and her colleagues requested $200,000 from North Dakota lawmakers this year. They ended up with $177,850, which was included in the Attorney General’s budget.
Pursifull shares, “We are grateful for that because this makes us feel that they take it seriously, that this part of the medical process is serious.”
Funding also goes to DFNE nurses in Dickinson and Williston, and it has to be shared with other Forensic Nurse non-profits in the eastern part of the state. But Pursifull says it’ll be enough to keep them going for the next two years.
She adds, “I’m pretty sure that it’s going to go towards some training, education, and then providing services to those patients.”
Dr. Matthew Zimny is one of the first faces victims see as they come into the ER. Emergency Room Doctors like Zimny will then call a SANE nurse in.
Dr. Zimny shares, “Nurse examiners are wonderful, it’s an amazing resource. I wish we lived in a world where we didn’t need that sort of thing, but that’s unfortunately not the case.”
Because the nurses are with a non-profit, these patients never receive an ER bill.
Dr. Zimny explains, “What we really do is just provide a location for them to do their thing.”
Robin says one of the biggest things that still isn’t budgeted into the SANE process in North Dakota is follow up care.
She explains, “And it’s extremely needed. Especially their emotions, so they need some mental health help, we’re talking STDs, so they need STD follow-up; HIV.”
She says a plan is in the works to make this happen.
They also received another $50,000 this year in a grant from Otto Bremmer. So while our SANE nurses could always use more assistance, they’re pleased with what they’re working with this year.
But as Dr. Zimny says, they can never be over-resourced.