Meet nurse Sarah Pederson, Georgia's first statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner coordinator

Nurse Sarah Pederson is Georgia's first statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) coordinator.
Nurse Sarah Pederson is Georgia's first statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) coordinator.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

As Georgia's first statewide Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) coordinator, nurse Sarah Pederson is responsible for many duties related to coordinating, enhancing and developing existing SANE programs.

"This is a brand new role in our state," explained Pederson, who started working in the position in January 2019. "We have never had a statewide coordinator, and it's the first time an RN has been employed at the state agency (the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council)."

Pederson said she's been well supported by the agency and by the team that she works with.

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She also works to educate the community and is a member of the Georgia Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), working with nurses, law enforcement personnel, crime lab professionals, nurses and attorneys to take a team, victim-centered approach to respond to sexual assaults. Pederson helped developed SART's Guide.

"Part of the SART Team response is to ensure that we're all coming together," she said, emphasizing that the victim is still at the center of their efforts and care.

In nursing school, Pederson didn't receive a lot of training about sexual assault victims, since it's a more specialized field. When she served as a labor and delivery nurse for many years, she asked screening questions about safety but didn't have the training that she's since acquired. Working in women's health, however, she was aware that sexual assault happens frequently.

Her interest in SANE training began as she recognized the need in her own community for nurses to be trained in providing care to patients who were the victims of sexual assault. She also personally knew a handful of people who had experienced sexual assault, so she was further drawn to the need to support victims in the best way possible.

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She completed her SANE training in February 2015 and worked with liveSAFE Resources in Cobb County, helping to coordinate SANE services provided to the sexual assault victims served by the social service organization. She also outlined protocols for forensic exams and ensured that best practices were being adhered to.

From there, Pederson became Georgia's statewide SANE coordinator, serving in the Sexual Assault, Child Abuse and Human Trafficking Unit of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.

Nurses who are interested in becoming SANEs need to be RNs in the state of Georgia. They receive classroom as well as clinical training and can also serve a preceptorship, which is similar to an apprenticeship. After this, they earn a certificate to practice with SANE.

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"There are some hospitals that have SANEs on-staff," Pederson explained. "In Georgia, we have a lot of community-based centers that have relationships with SANEs. … It differs from community to community. What's important is that patients have access to trained medical providers that can provide the SANE exam."

SANE training is available through several organizations, including the Georgia Network to End Sexual Assault and the International Association of Forensic Nurses.