Michelle Markie has been a nurse at St. Joseph Healthcare for 30+ years. Nearly 15 years ago, she began training to be a S.A.F.E. (Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner) Nurse in St. Joe’s Emergency Department.
S.A.F.E. nurses are healthcare providers who have been specially trained to provide comprehensive medical care to a sexual assault patient. They conduct comprehensive forensic exams and may testify as an expert witness. In addition, S.A.F.E nurses complete rigorous education requirements that include 40-hours of classroom instruction as well as extensive training with detectives, victim witness advocates, sexual assault advocates and the local District Attorney. Multiple hours of clinical practice, and court room observation are also required to meet state certification requirements.
“I immediately fell in love with the role. When you care for a patient after a trauma, especially those who’ve been assaulted, you inevitably develop a special bond,” shares Michelle. “These patients are in crisis. They are incredibly vulnerable and they’re trusting you to take excellent care of them. We give patients choices about their care, which begins to empower them to take back control and heal.”
S.A.F.E. Nurses may care for anyone affected by sexual assault, domestic violence or even individuals who have been sexually exploited or trafficked. St. Joe’s S.A.F.E. nurses proactively connect with local universities, police departments, shelters, the Department of Health and Human Services, sexual assault services and domestic violence services to help educate the community on the kinds of services S.A.F.E. nurses offer.
“Our active community outreach is what differentiates St. Joe’s comprehensive care,” adds Michelle. “Our 5-nurse team was recently recognized in a grant process, sponsored by The University of New England, as the best in Maine for treating patients and employing best practices for holistic forensic care.”
The S.A.F.E. nursing team at St. Joseph Hospital is clearly making a difference as victims seeking treatment has significantly risen. In 2017, 69 forensic exams were performed. By 2018 that number jumped to 160 exams. The team expects to perform a similar number of exams by the end of 2019.
“I’m committed to making a difference in sexual assault victims’ lives. It’s both comforting and inspiring for me to work for St. Joseph Healthcare knowing we share the same set of deeply held values,” confides Michelle. “The hospital’s leadership believes in mission and fully supports staff, like me, striving to execute mission and make people’s lives better every day.”
This article: St. Joseph Healthcare’s S.A.F.E. Nurses Believe in Active Community Outreach originally appeared in the January/February 2020 edition of Harvest – The Magazine of the Catholic Diocese of Portland.