(COLORADO SPRINGS) — UCHealth Memorial Hospital has a special team of nurses that specialize in treating victims of violence. Over the past year, the forensic nursing team has seen more than 2,500 individuals in need of exams or consultations.

“We provide comprehensive medical care to all victims of violence,” said the Clinical Manager of UCHealth Forensic Nurse Examiners Team, Sarah Hagedorn. “So sexual assault both adult and pediatric, intimate partner violence or domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, elder abuse and neglect, human trafficking, and strangulation.”

Right now, patients are given a medical exam in the emergency department room specifically for forensic exams. A grant from the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice helped support the construction of the new forensic nursing center which will bring more exam rooms that are designed to best support the patient.

“So it’s a dedicated space. So not only will it have five exam rooms, two with full bathrooms in this kind of quiet really beautiful space, but we’ll also bring all our grant projects under one umbrella, we’ll be able to offer more education, on-site preceptorship to enhance our ability to provide that statewide education,” Hagedorn said. “So that’s kind of what the new center will look like.”

The additional exam rooms are being designed to accommodate the needs of victims in a calming environment.

“We’re very excited… it’s a little bit softer… there are interesting textures and just it feels a little bit separate and protected,” Hagedorn said. “But we also have like a level one trauma center right next door so patients can have the full utilization of those services in this kind of quiet, really wonderful space.”

Inside the exam room at UCHealth Memorial Hospital.

Back in 2013, UCHealth first began specific training to treat victims of assault with the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) and Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Project. Now with the new center, certified nurses will be able to help nurses in rural areas with telehealth exams.

“We actually have a dedicated group of about six who take the telehealth call,” Hagedorn said. “These are all dual certified. So, we carry both the SANE-A for adult and adolescent and the SANE-P [for] pediatric certification, and those are not super common. In fact, last I checked, I think there were 677 dual-certified SANEs in the world.”

During the telehealth call, nurses are able to learn more about the patient and figure out a plan of care.

“The patients have access to nurses from a large volume program to make sure that no patient has to travel hours or hundreds of miles to get expert care,” Hagedorn said. “We’re deeply invested in providing high-quality care and facilitating that through the state of Colorado.”

Another goal of the center is to expand its preceptorship program to teach nurses about treatment and care for assault victims.

“Currently we offer both statewide and national preceptorship, and we have far more interest than we have space and time to do it,” Hagedorn said. “So this will allow us to bring in nurses really not just from Colorado, although Colorado is our focus, but we get requests from all over the country; bring them in, let them spend three days, three shifts with our nurses, see all the patients that we see so that when they take that knowledge back to their communities and are able to help their programs.”

The center will also have the support team of the local organization TESSA, which offers support to children and individuals that are victims of assault and domestic violence.

“So we have partnered with UCHealth for a number of years, having hospital advocates in place over there,” TESSA Chief Executive Officer, Anne Markley, said. “And so this is just a continuation of our partnership and definitely really an exciting opportunity to be in this state-of-the-art facility that they’ve been able to open and a great thing for our community as well.”

TESSA will be able to support victims as soon as they arrive at the hospital and support them every step of the way.

“And so we can walk them through from the moment they get there and we can accompany them through their exams, help them to understand the process,” Markley said. “Again, be a listening ear and we are confidential.”

Work is still being done at the new center on Wednesday afternoon.

Construction is still underway but this new dedicated space for assault victims will be the first of its kind in the country.

“We are going to be the first hospital-based in the world and so that’s amazing that we get to be part of that is huge,” Hagedorn said. “And we have plans to expand education, access to education, ensure that our patients here and that we see physically have the best care experience after, you know, this trauma.”