Deb Higgins has been helping patients at Great Bend Regional Hospital for many years. But recently, her efforts were highlighted statewide by the Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence. Deb Higgins has been the hospital’s sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) since the program launched in 2011, and has examined a growing number of victims each year.
“The SANE program allows our staff to provide physical examinations to victims of sexual and domestic violence, which is used to collect evidence and document their case for legal and criminal purposes,” says Adina Gregory, COO of Great Bend Regional Hospital. “Before our program started in 2011, victims had to be transferred to another facility up to two hours away.”
In 2011, five patients were seen. In 2012, that number increased to 11. Last year, that number jumped to 39 and 2015 is on track to exceed that number again. All together, they have examined more than 130 victims from 14 counties in Kansas. Because of the increasing need, Great Bend Regional Hospital is now training a second SANE to assist when needed.
“Our program is growing every day, and we continue to make strides in the right direction with the hospital’s and the community’s ongoing support,” Higgins said. “We strive for 24/7 coverage, and will help accommodate any needs that our patients may have.”
One of the ways the GBRH SANE program accommodates these victims’ needs is by utilizing a private room for sexual assault patients that is outside of the emergency room. This room has its own bathroom with a shower for the patient to use after the exam, providing a more private, safe, and trauma-sensitive examination.
The program has been successful due to a number of community partnerships built by Higgins and other staff at GBRH.
“Our community has really pulled together in a collaborative effort to serve our physically and sexually abused victims,” Higgins said. “Our partnerships include those with the Great Bend Police Department, Barton County Sheriff’s Department, DCF, the Family Crisis Center and the Dell Hayden Child Advocacy Center (CAC). At the CAC, the victim can have their interview and exam all under one roof. But at either location, the victim will have a family advocate called in to support the victim and their family that can then walk them through the legal process.”
While crime is not something to boast about, Great Bend Regional Hospital staff are proud to do what they can to combat this violence and help the victims convict their perpetrators. Higgins says, “When we can positively impact even one person’s life and make a small difference, we have succeeded.”
Great Bend Regional Hospital (www.gbregional.com) is a state-of-the-art 33-bed physician owned hospital offering emergency and urgent care services, orthopedics and general surgery, obstetrics and pediatrics, imaging and diagnostics, respiratory therapy, physical and occupational therapy, and an in-house laboratory.