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Forensic nurse program offered at Oceanside Health Centre

Survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence can now receive medical care in Parksville
Medical care for sexual assault, domestic violence survivors now available at Oceanside Health Centre. — Adam Kveton photo

Survivors of sexual assault and/or domestic violence in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area can now receive medical care, sexual assault forensic examinations (SAFE) and other types of support closer to home.

Nanaimo-based Forensic Nurse Examiners (FNEs) have completed specialized training to provide SAFE. They are now available to support patients at Oceanside Health Centre between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week. Outside of these hours, patients can access the medical care and SAFE services from an FNE at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital (NRGH), where SAFE services are available through the emergency department, or are able to make an appointment at the OHC for the following day.

“Our role is to support survivors, listen without judgement, and provide an advanced level of compassionate forensic nursing care,” said Aimee Falkenberg, co-ordinator of the FNE program for central and north Vancouver Island.

Falkenberg explained FNEs can see survivors up to seven days post-sexual assault and domestic violence, and can provide the choice of three options for their care. These options include:

• Medical care only. SAFE is not performed and no police report is filed.

• Medical care and SAFE; this includes the documentation of physical injuries and forensic sample collection. The forensic samples are stored for one year so survivors can decide what they would like to do.

• Medical care and SAFE, where forensic samples are provided to RCMP right away.

Support is also available for pediatric patients under the age of 13. These patients can be assessed at Oceanside Health Centre. If requiring FNE services, pediatric patients will be referred to NRGH where a pediatrician and FNE can see the patient together.

FNEs ensure survivors of violence are supported beyond the examination room. They work with health, social and legal services, and can refer survivors to local partners. In this way, they are able to bridge the medical and forensic care with the community services once a survivor leaves an FNE’s care.

Island Health has 55 forensic nurse examiners, including Falkenberg. They work on call to care for people of all genders and ages who have experienced sexual assault and/or domestic violence.

Island Health, one of six health jurisdictions in British Columbia, provides health care and support services to more than 765,000 people on Vancouver Island, the islands in the Salish Sea and the Johnstone Strait, and mainland communities north of Powell River.

With more than 20,000 staff, 1,900 physician partners, 6,000 volunteers, and the dedicated support of foundations and auxiliaries, Island Health delivers a broad range of health services, including: public health services, primary health care, home and community care, mental health and addictions services, acute care in hospitals, and much more across a huge, geographically diverse region.

— Submitted by VIHA

About the Author: Black Press Media Staff

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