ETSU College of Nursing professor becomes Northeast TN’s only certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner


JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — In the entire eight-county region of Northeast Tennessee, only one nurse is certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner-Adult/Adolescent (SANE-A).

According to a release from East Tennessee State University, Dr. Judy McCook is a professor in ETSU’s College of Nursing, and she recently earned her SANE-A certification.

The International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN) says SANEs are registered nurses with specialized training and education in the medical forensic care of patients who have experienced sexual assault or abuse.

The IAFN says there were less than 1,200 nurses internationally that were certified as SANE-As and only 465 nurses with the SANE-P (pediatric) certification as of February 28, 2019.

The release says McCook has worked at ETSU since 1997.

McCook will use her new certification to provide exams and care on campus for patients, while also providing SANE education and training for those wanting to follow in her footsteps.

“I don’t plan to be the only certified SANE for long,” McCook said. “I am so pleased we have three nurses prepared to take the SANE-A exam this September. ETSU is committed to training more nurses to become SANEs and to fill a need in our health care facilities and communities.

With the help of a grant the college of nursing received last year, the college will obtain an innovative educational model for SANE teaching purposes.

The university hopes to certify at least 21 SANE nurses in three years through the grant.

“In some areas of the state, patients who have experienced sexual assault have to drive long distances in order to be seen by someone who has specialized training in this area,” McCook said in the release. “We hope that this grant and continuing efforts in this area will help ensure that these patients get the highest level of care as soon as possible.”

A conference entitled “How Forensic Care Helps Survivors of Human Violence” will be hosted by ETSU on August 8 and 9 at the Carnegie Hotel to further SANE training. It will feature internationally renowned forensic nursing expert Dr. Patrick Speck, who will speak on human trafficking and trauma-informed care.

East Tennessee State University nursing professor, Doctor Judy McCook has become a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE). Not only does this mean she will examine and help victims, but she will also be able to testify in court about what she found.

“We were trained on all aspects of collecting evidence, assessing for injuries,” Dr. McCook said.

Human-trafficking and sexual assault is a problem that no community is immune to.

“I think it’s easy to think that particular crime couldn’t happen in east Tennessee. It’s a beautiful family friendly part of the world to live in, but unfortunately, it happens here,” executive director of Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Kate Trudell said.

“Law enforcement has been great and supportive but it really takes a village,” Dr. McCook said.

Dr. McCook is also creating a team to address these issues in northeast Tennessee.

She said, “What our goal is to be able to have our nurse that are in remote areas, if they have a sexual assault survivor come to them, they can call us and we can be in the room with them through a tele-health device, and talk them through the exam, make some suggestions, help them check for injuries, and answer questions.”

In 2018, ETSU reported four sexual assault cases to the state of Tennessee: two out of the four was “forcable fondling.”

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, more than 6,000 people reported being sexually assaulted, in 2017.

Another issue Dr. McCook hopes to address is the reality of sexual assault and human trafficking.

According to the Tennessee Department of Health, there are about 40.3 million modern day slaves worldwide.

“There is a human trafficking presence, absolutely, in Northeast Tennessee,” Dr. McCook said.

Kate Trudell is the executive director of Community Coalition Against Human Trafficking, in Knoxville.

“The way trafficking happens in east Tennessee is very unique in a sense that it does happen often more in this rural capacity where there’s a familial component,” Kate Trudell said.

She said, often times, human trafficking continues through generations.

Trudell said, “So, grandmother was trafficked, mother was trafficked, and now the child was trafficked because it’s normalized. That’s how they make ends meet, or that’s how just part of that family dynamic.”

In an effort to help more victims, the College of Nursing at ETSU will be using a $1.4 million grant to train more nurses over the course of three years.

“We have a grant that we are working in the eight counties of Northeast Tennessee and one of the criteria for the grant is that we train sexual assault nurse examiners: both adolescent adults as well as pediatrics,” Dr. McCook said. “We are going to be starting a nurse certificate program, so we obviously need to have certified faculty in order to teach those courses.”

She said three nurses will be taking the adolescent/adult certification exam in September and have more scheduled for next year.

Other resources for human-trafficking victims can be found here:

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