Lake Regional Health System honors an extraordinary team during Forensic Nurses Week, Nov. 8-12. Forensic Nurses Week recognizes the dedicated nurses who care for patients impacted by violence, abuse and trauma.
“These caring professionals come alongside patients affected by violence, support them and help them begin the healing process,” said Stephanie Dominique, R.N., director of the Lake Regional Forensic Assessment and Consultation Team (FACT). “Unfortunately, fewer than 20% of U.S. hospitals have a forensic nurse on staff. I’m proud to work for a health care system that has an entire team of forensic nurses.”
Lake Regional has 11 FACT nurses who operate a full forensics program: Kelly Claspill, RN-FNE; Stephanie Dominique, RN-FNE; Allison Foster, RN-FNE; Martin Krulatz, RN-FNE; Tasha Martin, RN-FNE; Kelli Moore, RN-FNE; Trish Murphy, RN-FNE; Denell Smith, RN-FNE, Jacquelyn Snow, RN-FNE; and Anne Wilson, RN-SANE A/P. These forensic nurse examiners serve victims of sexual assault, physical assault, domestic violence, neglect, elder abuse and neglect, non-fatal strangulation, gunshots, stabbings, and human trafficking.
Victims of these crimes often need an “evidentiary exam,” or an exam aimed at collecting and documenting evidence of the crime committed against them. Lake Regional FACT nurses complete these exams at Lake Regional Health System, as well as at Kids Harbor in both Osage Beach and St. Robert. So far in 2021, Lake Regional FACT nurses completed a total of 213 cases at Lake Regional and 343 at Kids Harbor.
Lake Regional FACT also partners with several local organizations to serve victims of abuse and neglect, including Citizens Against Domestic Violence/Victim Outreach Center, the Missouri Department of Social Services and law enforcement agencies.
The FACT nurses are dedicated to raising awareness about violence prevention in the community. This year, they are shining a light on domestic abuse, which is a pattern of assaultive and coercive behaviors used against a current or former intimate partner or other family members in the home.
“The past year we have seen an increase in the number and the severity of domestic violence patients,” Dominique said. “Here are four facts about domestic abuse and how to get help if it happens to you.”
1. Both women and men can be victims. People of all ages, backgrounds and incomes can be affected. And it can happen in any sexual relationship — gay, straight or otherwise.
2. There are many warning signs of abuse. Victims of domestic abuse often feel afraid of their partner — like they have to walk on eggshells around them. People who are abused might work hard to avoid making their partner angry, or they may avoid certain topics that seem to trigger their partner’s abuse.
Victims of abuse might have frequent injuries that they call “accidents.” There are many other warning signs too. They might seem afraid or anxious about making their partner happy. They might also get harassing calls or texts from their partner or have to check in often with their partner when they aren’t home.
3. Abuse is never the victim’s fault. Abusers often blame their victims. They may say the victim “caused” the abuser to do or say something hurtful. But abusers are capable of controlling themselves. It’s not the victim’s responsibility to prevent or fix their partner’s behavior.
4. Help is available. It can take time to work up the courage to leave an abusive relationship. If you are in an abusive relationship, talk with someone you trust who can help you find a safe place to go. If you suspect a loved one is being abused, share your concerns in person, in a safe, private place. Talking in person is better than texting or emailing.
“If you don’t know who to turn to, call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800.799.7233 (SAFE),” Dominique said. “If you are in immediate danger, call 911.”
Lake Regional Health System provides comprehensive health care services to residents and visitors throughout the mid-Missouri region. The hospital is a Level II Stroke Center, Level II STEMI (heart attack) Center and Level III Trauma Center. Lake Regional also provides a wide range of specialties, including cancer care, heart care, orthopedics and women’s health. Plus, Lake Regional operates primary care clinics, Express Care clinics, rehab therapy clinics, programs for home health and hospice, and retail pharmacies. To learn more, visit lakeregional.com.