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UT Nursing receives grant to improve care of assault victims in rural Appalachia
August 3, 2022

KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee, College of Nursing has been awarded a $677,238 grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to train nurses in providing care to victims of sexual assault and abuse throughout rural Appalachia.

The project titled Expert Examiners Require Training (EXPERT) will educate, train, and certify 20 registered nurses as sexual assault nurse examiners (SANE). The project will also certify eight sexual assault nurses who are currently practicing but lack certification by the International Association of Forensic Nurses.

HRSA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary federal agency for improving health care to people who are geographically isolated, economically, or medically vulnerable.

Nurses will be placed in seven rural Appalachian counties to provide better health care for survivors of sexual assault. The isolation of rural, mountainous Tennessee makes health care access difficult, and for some of these counties, the closest location to receive SANE services is over an hour away.

Services for victims will be available in Bledsoe, Cumberland, Fentress, Morgan, Rhea, Scott, and Van Buren.

Victims of violence and abuse require careful care from a health care professional who is specially trained to provide trauma informed care. By providing evidence-based treatment, performing thorough assessments, and collecting forensic evidence that can be used in a criminal trial, SANE nurses play a critical role in supporting survivors throughout their recovery process.

“By expanding services to these rural counties, we will make reporting sexual assault more accessible, and the services available more transparent,” said Carrie Bailey, program coordinator. “Sexual assault is so underreported. Hopefully, if victims feel more supported, more will come forward.”

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), every 68 seconds an American is sexually assaulted. Every nine minutes that victim is a child. Less than 50 percent of victims report.

“We are very thankful for the funding of this highly impactful educational program,” said Victoria Niederhauser, dean of the college. “Nurses are one of the most trusted health professionals and by situating them in communities, they can provide needed physical and emotional services to the victims of traumatic events.”

The project began on July 1 and will run over the course of two years.

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