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Collaborative, Compassionate Care: Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Sexual Assault Program

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April is National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and at Mount Nittany Health, we are committed to providing education and resources to help prevent sexual assault and support survivors. Sexual assault is a devastating experience that can have lifelong physical and emotional effects. It is a widespread issue that impacts individuals of all ages, genders, religions, ethnicities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. As a healthcare leader, Mount Nittany Health is committed to providing comprehensive care and services to sexual assault patients in the Centre region.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over half of women and almost one in three men will experience sexual violence involving physical contact during their lifetimes. One in four women and about one in 26 men have experienced completed or attempted rape. Mount Nittany Medical Center’s Emergency Department cares for approximately 70 sexual assault patients each year.

At Mount Nittany Health, we understand the trauma that accompanies sexual assault and violence, and we have developed an extensive program to provide compassionate and comprehensive care to sexual assault patients. All registered nurses that work in the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany Medical Center are trained as sexual assault forensic examiner (SAFE) nurses, which means they complete a 40-hour didactic course where they learn about documentation, forensic evidence collection, chain of custody, court, consent, how to perform exams and provide care for patients. In the Emergency Department at Mount Nittany Medical Center, there is always a nurse available who has completed this course and can provide specialized one-on-one care to the patient who is being treated.

The sexual assault care provided at Mount Nittany Medical Center is part of a collaborative effort by a skilled team that includes several agencies including the local police, Centre Safe, and the domestic violence task force committee. Each entity plays an important role in the care and comfort of our patients. This combined effort ensures that sexual assault survivors will only have to tell their story one time.

Nicki Olson, RN, BSN, SANE-A, Emergency Department, Mount Nittany Medical Center, is an integral part of Mount Nittany Health’s sexual assault program, serving as a sexual assault nurse for 22 years. As an expert in her field, she advises several local organizations and other municipalities on best practices for dealing with sexual assault. Nicki began teaching the SAFE course at Mount Nittany Medical Center in 2012 and became a certified sexual assault nurse examiner for adults (SANE-A) in 2016. As a sexual assault nurse examiner, she has undergone extensive training to provide specialized care to sexual assault patients, including 300 hours of relevant practice before completing the SANE-A certification exam.

Nicki discussed the importance of Mount Nittany Medical Center’s sexual assault program: “We are seeing people on the worst day of their life. We are patient-focused and we work together as a team to benefit the patient. Our goal is to work in a comprehensive and compassionate way so the people we are caring for don’t experience any additional trauma.”

This April, please join us in recognizing and thanking Nicki, our incredible team of SAFE nurses, and the other organizations who help us provide compassionate care to our patients who are sexual assault survivors.

If you or someone you know has experienced dating or domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking, help is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please call Centre Safe at 814.234.5050 or toll-free at 1.877.234.5050.