Medical Center Hospital in need of sexual assault nurses

Medical Center Hospital in need of sexual assault nurses

ODESSA, TX (KWES) - The Odessa Police Department estimates they respond to two to three sexual assaults a week, but despite the amount of cases they deal with, sometimes the officer has to take the victim to Midland, to get a rape kit done.    

"There are a lot unfortunately out there that don't get reported to us." said Cpl. Steve LeSueur with the Odessa Police Department. "The Odessa Police Department responds to sexual assaults multiple times on a weekly basis."

The Texas Department of Public Safety reported 131 sexual assaults in Odessa and Ector County in 2015. Currently, there aren't enough nurses trained to deal with rape victims.

A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) gets extensive forensic training to collect evidence for law enforcement. They also serve as expert witnesses in court. Right now, Medical Center Hospital has only one.

"No one person can be on call 24-hours a day," said Karen Hildebrand, Executive Director of the Crisis Center in Odessa.

Hildebrand works closely with sexual assault victims. She and others are even called into the hospital to support the victim while the exam is being performed. She says the issue lies with the amount of training needed and nurses leaving the city.

"When you provide your employees with additional training and expertise, that allows them to be more marketable and able to move into other positions and other towns," said Hildebrand.

If MCH's SANE is off-duty or not on call, the victim has to be taken by patrol car to Midland for care.

"Having the rape kit available as soon as possible is very important and certainly having to transport the victim to another town is inconvenient and adds to the trauma, but it is the only option we have currently," said Hildebrand.

Medical Center Hospital says ideally with Odessa's population size, they need about seven to 10 SANEs, but with how strenuous and emotionally stressful the job is, it is hard to get nurses to go through the training.

"It is very important, we, as a community have someone specially trained to provide comprehensive care for a sexual assault patient. These individuals have been through a horrible experience where they need care, compassion and someone who is trained to serve as an expert witness for future times in court," said Christin Timmons, Medical Center Hospital System Associate Chief Nursing Officer.

MCH says they should have four more nurses trained to be SANEs by Fall of 2017.

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