South Shore SANE program hampered by recruitment troubles
Few people have applied for new Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner positions
The expansion of a program that offers help to survivors of sexual assault on the South Shore has been hampered by difficulty recruiting nurses to do the work.
The Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program provides medical and forensic examination, supportive care, collection and storage of forensic evidence and expert testimony in court.
The provincial government committed $700,000 in 2015 to extend the SANE program to Nova Scotia's southwestern area and Cape Breton. SANE teams with on-call, registered nurses were launched earlier this month in Yarmouth, N.S., and Sydney.
Susan Wilson, the Nova Scotia Health Authority's provincial SANE program co-ordinator, said that's likely because it's difficult work and a significant time commitment.
"It's an area of specialty and it's an area where recruitment is generally difficult everywhere, globally. Even in the Halifax area, recruitment is not as easy as one would think, even with the higher population of nurses," she said.
Number of trained nurses dwindled
A group of nurses on the South Shore received SANE training in 2015, but very few of them continue to provide the 24-hour, on-call service. The nurses are paid at their regular rate when they're called in to provide SANE services, but they aren't paid for the hours they are on call.
Since most nurses already work full or part time, it's a lot to ask, said Wilson.
"The nurses do this over and above their regular work, and it is a big time commitment. It's absolutely huge," she said.
'It's been a hard sell'
Julie Veinot, the executive director of the Sexual Health Centre Lunenburg County, said the new jobs have no benefits or pensions and the hours won't constitute full-time work.
Training requirements may also be a barrier to recruitment, she said.
"The cool thing about it previously was that it was done as part of their work in the hospital so they didn't have to take time off. Whereas under the new program, it's a whole different employer, so they'd have to basically take time off to go do the training," Veinot said.
Even nurses who previously received SANE training would need to take the eight days of training.
"To try to coax those same ones to give up their vacation time basically to go get retrained, it's been a hard sell," Veinot said.
SANE services still available
Wilson said she had hoped to have the South Shore team trained this fall and a second team in the Annapolis Valley in the spring, but now she doesn't know when the program will start.
In the meantime, SANE services are available from the few SANE nurses who are still on call on the South Shore, although they may not always be available to respond to calls.
Victims of sexual assault can also go to any hospital in the province and a doctor will be able to conduct an examination, including a sexual assault examination kit.
If no SANE nurse is immediately available on the South Shore and a victim specifically requests the help of a SANE nurse, the person may need to travel to Halifax or Yarmouth for services in person. Staff at hospitals can help co-ordinate transportation to those locations if needed.
A 24-hour phone line is also available to connect victims with an on-call SANE nurse.