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“It is the most rewarding work I have done in my 20 years as a nurse,” says Megan Shupe, MSN, RN, CEN, SANE-A, on her work with the Center of Hope. “Patients are grateful. It is just a different experience than I have had in nursing.”
The Center of Hope launched in 2018 at IU Health Arnett Hospital because of Shupe’s dedication and persistence. With grant funding, the program expanded to Frankfort and White Memorial hospitals in 2020.
The Center of Hope offers anyone who has experienced sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse a safe space to receive treatment and care by a compassionate, highly qualified forensic nurse using specialized equipment and providing private care.
Shupe’s passion stemmed from her personal experiences with violence, being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and a witness to repeated severe episodes of domestic violence. Her “why” is because it is serving a community need.
“There is a state and local gap in coverage,” says Shupe. “A victim often has to be transferred to another hospital to receive care and that hospital may be more than an hour away.”
Sexual assault and domestic violence can happen to anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in three women and one in four men have been a victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. Over half of women and one in three men have been a victim of sexual violence in their lifetime. One in seven children have been the victim of abuse or neglect. Domestic violence occurs across the world and affects people at all levels of economic status.
In a perfect world, the Center of Hope would be fully staffed with a forensic nurse working 24/7 in the Emergency departments. Someone who is trained to see the signs and hear the thoughts versus a forensic nurse who is on call.
Currently, the flow of patients is sporadic, seeing an average of one a week at minimum. Shupe says she knows patients are being missed due to not having a forensic nurse in the Emergency departments full time.
“The goal is to meet the person where they present, when they present,” says Shupe. “Domestic violence and sexual assault victims face so many obstacles in the justice system. Statistics show us that if treated at a Center of Hope, they are less likely to have PTSD or suicidal ideation.”
A Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) is a nurse who has obtained additional education and clinical experience to perform forensic-medical examinations and evidence collection. Shupe has funding available to pay for forensic training for interested nurses. Training is typically done virtually at your own pace over a few months.
“Victims deserve care and attention from a special group of professionals who are ready to help in their time of need,” says Shupe. “There are endless opportunities to truly make a difference in forensic nursing.”