Jacqueline “Jackie” Maillet, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, and her staff rarely can anticipate what awaits them each day at Mission Health Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.
Jackie serves as a certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) for both adults and pediatrics, and is also director and program coordinator for Mission’s Compassionate Care Unit. She and her forensic nursing team are dedicated to caring for the hospital’s most vulnerable patients — those suffering from trauma. Their wounds are not always visible, but the danger some face can be life-threatening, requiring collaboration among multiple agencies, including law enforcement.
Upholding our mission to care for and improve human life makes extending compassionate care to these vulnerable patients inherent to who we are. Our unwavering commitment to keeping our communities safe and healthy drives the work of these essential caregivers and the person-centered care they deliver.
Jackie’s team serves western North Carolina, a mostly rural region of Appalachia that has a population of less than 800,000 people across 16 counties. Patients may come to the unit directly, through Mission’s emergency department or via social agencies. Cases can include domestic violence or intimate partner violence (unmarried couples), human trafficking, elder abuse, child abuse and/or other forms of assault. Many of the patients are indigent, and patients never receive a bill — even for follow-up care — due to state-funded grants.
Jackie and her team cared for roughly 400 patients each of the past two years, but the number is currently trending much higher, with close to 400 patients already as of 2023.
“We’ll see anybody affected by violence in western North Carolina, because we’re it for the western part of the state,” says Jackie.
In the Midwest, Amy Mitchell, RN, forensic nurse coordinator for Wesley Hospital in Wichita, Kansas, oversees a staff of seven that provides 24-hour coverage for these cases, seven days a week. In 2022, Amy’s team cared for almost 800 patients, with a distinct increase during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I feel like domestic violence went up significantly,” she says. “Every year, we have more patients. That’s a constant.”
Wesley Hospital is the hub for several satellite facilities, expanding the SANE unit’s reach into surrounding counties. Ensuring community access to this critical care means safety is one step closer for these patients. Amy regularly attends multidisciplinary team meetings that bring together community partners working to serve patients and their families. That team may include healthcare providers, Department for Children and Families caseworkers, law enforcement, advocates, the district attorney’s office, school personnel, and advocates for victims of domestic violence and sexual violence.
HCA Healthcare’s forensic nurses are making significant inroads in serving these patients, raising awareness about available services, providing a safe haven — or the road map to a safe haven — and working closely with law enforcement and state and social agencies to provide desperately needed care.
“We have a menu of services — the nurse pulls what’s applicable to the particular event, and the patient has the ultimate say,” says Jackie.