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NEWS: Nursing program utilizes $1.3 million grant to expand SANE

NEWS: Nursing program utilizes $1.3 million grant to expand SANE

By Alejandro Garcia IV
Bridge contributing writer
Published Thursday, April 14, 2022

A $1.3 million grant provides funds to increase specialized nurses through the College of Nursing and Health Sciences.

The HRSA federal grant provides institutional opportunities and resources for nurses to become trained for sexual assault cases in their respective community, and in hopes, to enhance the quality of life.

A student who graduated from Texas A&M International University’s College of Nursing can become a specialized Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in their basic or advanced certified SANE programs.

Back on Aug. 6, 2021, the College of Nursing and Health Sciences received $1.3 million in a competitive federal grant pool.

To earn a SANE specialization, the nurses must travel hours to find cases and the expenses would have to come out of the students’ pockets. Within Laredo, the severe lack of SANE nurses delayed the justification process for the victims.

“Tuition is free, that’s why we are able to train them,” TAMIU Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Sciences Marivic Torregosa said. “In 2018, there was only one SANE nurse because it is very expensive. You have to travel out of town to get the cases you need, to get certified.” 

When training for these cases, the nurse must spend money on food, housing, gas, instructors and other travel expenses. The HRSA grant supplies the nurses with financial support for the certification because the grant funds should pay for those student resources.

“The grant has added nurses to the community who are SANE certified, and it has addressed the need of them,” Torregosa said.

Before the SANE Program operation, victims of sexual assault needed to travel out of town to get tested and reviewed. This long process causes the revictimization of survivors, which adds more trauma to the victim. Today, victims can seek help in community hospitals, so the victim feels reassurance and comfort in their hometown.

“This grant is allowing us to build [a] capacity of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, both for adults and adolescents,” SANE Program Manager Rosario Benavides said.

The TAMIU SANE program receives only Texas state certifications, since its goal is to provide specialized SANE nurses for the community of Laredo. The number of SANE nurse graduates has only multiplied and the program’s mission to continue expanding operations remains in motion.

“There are international SANE nurses; however, the need is here in my community in Laredo,” Benavides said. “That is why we focus mainly on state certifications and not international, because we have to start at home.”

In law enforcement, SANE nurses must train to become experts in judicial care and forensic nursing. Nurses have first-hand experience in the Texas medico legal system to seek justice for victims.

Nurses also undergo mental health training and stress management. The grant provides further mental health resources, such as SCAN Inc. for SANE nurses to combat their hardships in training and in the field.

“The HRSA resources [have] helped TAMIU create a pipeline of highly skilled registered nurses to support victims of sexual assault and hold offenders accountable,” Benavides said. 

“This affirms the University’s mission of service and relevance to our community and region  and underscores the importance of developing programs and resources that address community and  regional needs, advance our shared experience and improve our quality of life.”

TAMIU SANE nurse alumna Alejandra Gonzalez currently serves as the medical surgical telemetry  director at Laredo Medical Center. The financial burdens of the curriculum were covered by the grant, so training and studying for Gonzalez’s certification are the primary focuses. It provided her with the time, materials and diverse connections she needed to accomplish the certification.

“We had to go to Houston or San Antonio for our clinicals for a whole week,” Gonzalez said. “Any out-of-pocket expenses were paid through the grant—which was our hotel, food [and] gas. Our applications and certifications were all covered by the grant.”

Fifty-three nurses graduated from TAMIU’s SANE program and provide specialized assistance for sexual assault victims in Webb County.

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