LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Penn State Health and Penn State’s College of Nursing are teaming up to improve medical care for people who’ve been sexually assaulted. The program uses technology to bring specially-trained nurses into the exam room.

Lancaster Medical Center recently joined the program, putting a team of nurses through extra training. Nurses said it gives them and their patients a critical resource when they need it most.

“I think this is a really good resource, and it’s a benefit for Lancaster County,” nurse Bianca Cruz said.

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Cruz works in the emergency department at Penn State Health Lancaster Medical Center. Even before the extra training, she had specialized skills not all nurses have.

“We both have previous SANE training experience,” Cruz said of her and her coworker.

Cruz is part of the hospital’s Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) team.

“It’s such a vulnerable population, you really want a specific and highly trained group of people,” she said.

The SANE team is now working with a program out of Penn State’s College of Nursing called SAFE-T, or Sexual Assault Forensic Examination Telehealth Center.

“We’re able to support both the patient and that local nurse,” SAFE-T Center director Sheridan Miyamoto said.

SAFE-T uses technology to bring experts on sexual assault exams into the hospital room, helping nurses provide care in real-time.

“You have these people with hundreds of exams under their belt that are able to guide you in the trauma-informed care,” Cruz said.

Patients can opt in or out of this resource, but Miyamoto said most say yes.

“They get to meet the SAFE-T nurse who explains what their role is,” she said.

Miyamoto said without specially trained professionals, sexual assault survivors do not always get the care they need.

“There’s a still tremendous amount of bias and judgment and blame that survivors experience, even at the point of healthcare,” she said.

SAFE-T and the SANE team want to change that.

“We do whatever the patient needs in that moment,” Cruz said.

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Miyamoto added, “We can’t underestimate what it is to feel believed, to regain choice when a lot of choice has been taken away from you and you’re in a very vulnerable position.”

The SAFE-T center is currently partnered only with hospitals that have SANE-trained nurses on staff, but they just got a grant to expand to 10 more facilities, which could include hospitals without those specially-trained employees.