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The Regional Medical Center has earned the SAFE hospital designation for its care of sexual assault survivors and its collection of evidence used in the prosecution of perpetrators of such violence.

The Sexual Assault Forensic Excellence, or SAFE, designation is awarded to South Carolina hospitals or agencies that complete sexual assault victim care training provided by the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network. The training includes evidence preservation and trauma-informed care.

SCVAN officials were among those who converged upon RMC recently for the presentation of the designation.

“The Regional Medical Center will be obtaining their Level 2 designation. … They’ll be able to see adults and adolescents 24/7, no matter what time they present to the emergency department. So that is huge for this area, especially since they’ll be covering the Bamberg-Barnwell area, which is another rural area that might not get these services otherwise,” said Amanda Brown, the statewide forensic nurse examiner program director with SCVAN.

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“If a hospital wants to partake in this designation, they’re going to go above and beyond to provide exceptional care to these victims when they come in, similar to that of like a trauma center or a stroke center,” she said.

Brown thanked the RMC for “going above and beyond” to receive its designation.

“In a short amount of time, they have put this together, and now it’s going to be a robust program for you all’s community. So that is wonderful. We were lucky enough to partner with the Attorney General’s Office, SLED (S.C. Law Enforcement Division) and the (S.C.) Hospital Association to have them back us to make this designation happen,” she said.

Brown continued, “We are the first state in the United States to have a SAFE designation system, and this will make 25 out of about 70 hospitals that are SAFE designated. So while we still have a ways to go, we are definitely having some momentum going.”

Karrie Powell, RMC’s chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services, said creating partnerships was one of the keys to receiving the designation, including with SCVAN, the S.C. Forensic Nurse Examiners Task Force and local community partners.

“We are very proud to be partnering collaboratively with all of our forces. … Your nursing team put a lot of hours into being able to fulfill this mission to serve a very delicate population in our community. … I want to give out a lot of love and encouragement to those who stood beside us today. This is a distinct honor … and we are very proud to be receiving this as a nursing team,” she said.

The SAFE designation comes on the heels of four RMC Emergency Department nurses earning their Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, certificates.

Nurses Crissy Brooks, Shakiyanna Berry, Brittany Irick and Kristina Sharpe completed a 40-hour SANE didactic course.

Once the four nurses complete the final exam requirement, they will join RMC’s two SANE-A nurses, Melissa Hutto and Marie Sherman.

SANE nurses are registered nurses or advanced practice nurses who have received special training which enables them to provide comprehensive care to sexual assault victims, including the ability to conduct a forensic exam and provide expert testimony in court as a case goes to trial.

Powell said, “Not only are we now competent and functional in the care of the patient, but also functional in the collection of that evidence in making sure that we remain within the chain of command.”

Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office Chief of Staff Chandra Gibbs, who also serves as the vice president of the SCVAN board of directors, said, “We understand how pivotal this is. We understand how huge this is because oftentimes sitting in with the SANE nurses is that advocate that’s over there, or our sexual assault investigators.”

“So as the (SCVAN) vice president, I am super proud of what you are doing and how you’re representing SCVAN. You all have done amazing work. … We are committed to a continued successful partnership. Anything that we can do at our agency, we’re here,” she said.

Sabrina Gast, statewide forensic nurse examiner director with SCVAN, said “The job for this forensic nurse examiner was to assess different parts of the state to determine where we needed forensic services and how we were going to get nurses into the population to serve this very delicate patient population that we see come through your emergency departments.”

“I am proud to say that in 2019, we actually created the South Carolina Forensic Nurse Task Force. … We are focused on fixing the forensic nurse absenteeism that we have around the state. We want forensic nurses, or SANE nurses, that are specially trained to take care of sexual assault, domestic violence victims because they deserve that,” she said.

Gast continued, “Part of that is we actually created what is called the SAFE designation. … We want to congratulate you. It takes a lot of work and a lot of effort.”

RMC Clinical Excellence Coordinator Toshyanna “Tosh” Aiken organized the training for the nurses and coordinated with multiple agencies to ensure that all application requirements for the SAFE program were submitted. Aiken also worked with Hutto to procure the proper supplies and equipment needed in the RMC Emergency Department.

Aiken thanked Gina Dyer-Gross, forensic nurse coordinator of Prisma Health Richland, for her guidance throughout the process to receive the SAFE designation.

RMC Board Chairman Dr. Lucius Craig said, “We would like to thank the senior leadership team… and all of our nurses who’ve worked diligently on this. It is exciting to see something like this come to our hospital that’s patient-centered. It’s only going to help our community.”

RMC President and Chief Executive Officer David Southerland also thanked the RMC leadership team for their efforts to get the SAFE designation.

“We are making changes slowly. We’re making changes. Our quality is improving. We’ve got a lot of work to do on the financial side still. We’re moving forward hopefully with finalizing a partnership with MUSC. Those are all over positive things, and I think it’s going to encourage more people to come to the Regional Medical Center and use the services that we offer,” Southerland said.

Orangeburg County Councilwoman Deloris Frazier, Orangeburg County Councilwoman-elect Latisha Walker, state Sen. Vernon Stephens and state Rep. Russell Ott were among the state and local government officials who were on hand for the program.

Ott said, “I just can’t thank you ladies enough for putting in the work and going above and beyond to get the training that it requires to be able to get this designation. … I’m just very proud and appreciative of all that you (RMC) do.”

Contact the writer: or 803-533-5534. Follow “Good News with Gleaton” on Twitter at @DionneTandD

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