To Aid Rape Victims, Illinois Now Requires Nurses to Be Trained

August 14, 2018 AT 9:20 AM

By Alison Bowen

All sexual assault victims who enter an Illinois emergency room will soon be treated by a nurse trained to care for them.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation Friday night that will require hospitals to train enough medical providers in how to treat sexual assault patients that when a victim arrives, a trained provider is present within 90 minutes. Hospitals will have until Jan. 1, 2022, to comply.

An earlier Tribune investigation found that although experts recommend that rape victims be treated by providers trained in that specialty, few nurses undergo the training. The care a patient receives can depend on which emergency room he or she goes to and when; one hospital may have multiple sexual assault nurse examiners on staff while another has none.

The Illinois attorney general’s office has for years provided free training for Illinois nurses, but many say they have not been able to attend or complete it because of a lack of time or money. Nurses often spend their own time to attend training programs and their own money to travel to them.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said Friday that since 2003, her office has provided the classroom portion of training to more than 1,600 nurses across the state, but just 188 nurses practicing in Illinois emergency departments have completed the full training, which includes practicing genital exams and observing testimony in court.

Advocates have long said that more nurses should undergo training; government and health experts say it’s beneficial both to those who have experienced trauma and to providers who handle medical evidence. Madigan pushed for the legislation, saying experienced nurses provide stronger evidence, which leads to bolstered prosecutions and more criminals in prison.

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