What Is a SANE?A sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) is a registered or advanced practice nurse who has received specialized training to provide comprehensive, trauma-informed, patient-centered care to survivors of sexual assault. Depending on the jurisdiction or state/province, a SANE may go by another name, such as a forensic nurse examiner. The SANE’s responsibilities include:
- Evaluating the survivor’s ability to provide consent for a forensic exam
- Conducting a thorough and comprehensive medical history, including specifics of the sexual assault
- Educating the patient about and discussing the need for potential testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Addressing pregnancy potential and the available options
- Conducting a thorough physical exam, collecting samples or photo imaging along the way, as necessary and according to the patient’s wishes
- Being prepared to testify as a witness in any criminal or civil trials, when necessary.
Benefits of CertificationNurses who achieve SANE certification demonstrate the highest standards of forensic nursing. Becoming certified ensures peers, employers, patients, and SANES themselves that they have developed the knowledge and expertise to provide comprehensive, compassionate care to survivors of sexual assault. The IAFN developed its first board certification in 2002 for nurses providing care to the adult population. The pediatric SANE board certification later followed in 2007. Unless a local jurisdiction or facility requires otherwise, a nurse does not need to be board certified to practice as a SANE. However, it is strongly recommended. SANEs report that certification enhances their credibility when testifying in court, they receive validation of their knowledge and skills, they enjoy recognition among their peers, and other benefits.
Steps to CertificationA registered or advanced practice nurse may pursue SANE certification after completing a 40-hour didactic course (either online or in-person), assuming the didactic training course meets the SANE Education Guidelines. Since 2006, that means that the course must be taught as one contiguous course by one accredited provider of nursing professional development and grant the attendee a minimum of 40 contact hours. Nurses who wish to sit for the certification exam must achieve this as their first step, followed by a clinical preceptorship, 300 hours of SANE-related practice, and then taking the exam.
Exam Eligibility RequirementsTo be eligible to sit for the certification exam, the nurse must meet certain criteria. Certification eligibility requirements are:
- Holding a current, unrestricted license as a registered or advanced practice nurse
- Having practiced at least 2 years as a registered or advanced practice nurse (for SANE-A); 3 years (for SANE-P)
- Having completed a 40-hour sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) course that meets the SANE Education Guidelines
- Having completed a SANE clinical preceptorship
- Having accrued at least 300 hours of SANE-related practice within the past three years. At least 200 hours must be related to the patient population in which one seeks certification.
- Providing direct patient care as a SANE
- Taking on-call shifts as a SANE (regardless of whether you see a patient)
- Teaching or precepting SANES
- Consulting as a SANE on SANE-related issues (e.g., presenting SANE-related education, testifying as a SANE, engaging in advocacy or process development for SANE issues, etc.)
- Peer review of SANE cases
Sources of Clinical TrainingJust as clinical preceptorships are required during nursing programs, they are used in training SANEs. In nursing school, student nurses are often assigned to a preceptor to assist in the student’s clinical, hands-on training. SANE preceptorships are often conducted with guidance from a certified SANE/forensically trained nurse, a physician, or an advanced practice nurse. Certain skills are necessary for a nurse to be competent to practice as a SANE. The IAFN SANE preceptorship does not require a certain number of exams or set period of time. Instead, it is learner-driven—and the metric is competency. The SANE is deemed competent when their preceptor assesses the SANE’s demonstration of a skill as competent. Clinical opportunities abound. They may include simulated experiences, clinical preceptorships, or skills training workshops. Nurses should check with their local Board of Nursing to determine what is offered and/or required in their region. If no local programs or opportunities exist, the IAFN has approved various facilities offering 2-day clinical training. In addition, clinical preceptor opportunities are available throughout the United States. The IAFN makes it easy for nurses to find locations known for their clinical training opportunities.
Preparing for the Certification ExamCongratulations on meeting the requirements to sit for the certification exam! As with most exams, test anxiety may start to set in, so please follow along as we provide prep and study tips!
- Read the IAFN’s Certification Exam Handbook–This maps everything you need to know!
- Review the Test Content Outline for the exam you plan to take—It tells you all the topics that will be covered on the exam—and the percentage of items devoted per major topic (or domain)
- Peruse the reference list for resources that you can use to your advantage
- Seek a review course for the test you are sitting for
- Combine your need for continuing education (CE) courses with SANE content to maximize your preparation
- Review the IAFN Study for the SANE Exam page (Pro tip: FULL of great info!)