Giving them back the power: Green Bay nurse centers career around helping sexual assault victims through SANE Program

Positively Wisconsin

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – At HSHS St. Vincent Hospital, a part of the emergency room is always ready to come to the aid of sexual assault victims.

“We’re on call,” Dana Stueber, SANE Clinical Coordinator told Local 5. “We take calls 24-7, 365, and we will come in whenever someone reports here with sexual assault.”

Stueber has spent 15 years working in the SANE Program.

“I worked in the NICU, the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and I wanted to work with some adults,” she explained. “I wanted to work with some patients who could talk about to me.”

SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner.

When a patient comes into the program, being able to communicate is key.

“It’s not like CSI, it’s not like SVU, where somebody is screaming and crying,” Stueber explained. “I mean, usually they’re in a shocked state and they’re not knowing what to do. So we provide them with answers and resources that’re going to help them with this and hopefully heal them that much quicker.”

Stueber and the team of nurses she oversees are the first stop for the victim of a sexual assault.

“Giving them back the power and control, of course introducing yourself, introducing what your role is, but then giving them choices, and being okay with the choices that they make,” she said of what a patient experiences once entering the SANE Program.

It’s a process she has worked through with patients of all ages.

“In my practice, the youngest one I have seen is four weeks old, the oldest one that I took care of was 91-years-old,” Stueber said.

If the victim chooses to report the assault, evidence collected by the SANE Program nurses is vital.

“I like collecting the swabs,” Stueber said. “I like going to court and seeing where my swab made a difference in collecting DNA.”

The SANE Program at St. Vincent’s is one of the only medical programs dedicated to helping victims of sexual assault in Northeast Wisconsin.

Stueber explained, “If you look around Wisconsin, Brown County, we have a program. There’s four hospitals here in town, we’re the only one with a SANE Program. In Oconto County there is no program, Marinette County there is no program, they’re closing the one down in Door County. There’s not one in Kewaunee County.”

That means that the SANE Progam at St. Vincent Hospital is utilized by patients from all across Northeast Wisconsin.

“Our community, our local law enforcement, the sane advocate group, they all know that they can count on us to be here when they need us,” Leah Bergstrom, SANE Director at St. Vincent Hospital said.

Just like the community counts on the hospital, the hospital counts on Stueber.

“There is high burnout,” Bergstrom explained. “It is extremely stressful and emotionally wearing on the nurses that do this work, and so Dana continues to remain inspired.”

Inspired to continue helping the 200 plus patients the program sees every year.

“The worst part has already happened,” Stueber said. “The SANE exam should not be traumatic. You’re able to use those nursing skills that you have to take the trauma out of the exam itself, giving them back the power and control.”


Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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