PITTSBURG — Senator Jerry Moran (R.-Kansas) announced a federal nursing grant for the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing at Pittsburg State University on Monday.

The grant, which will total $800,288 over three years, will fund the Advanced Nurse Education Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program at PSU. SANE nurses are registered nurses who have completed specialized education in medical forensic care of patients who have experienced sexual abuse. PSU is one of 19 institutions to receive the grant.

Senator Moran lauded PSU for the university’s commitment to equipping healthcare professionals to care for victims of sexual assault.

“This place is a role model for Kansans,” he said. “The school’s ability to bring federal grant dollars back to Kansas is extremely valuable, and the grants announced today will empower nurses to advance their education and place an emphasis on serving communities in need of their skills.”

Currently, there is only one SANE nurse serving Crawford County. PSU alum Wendy Overstreet will use her expertise to serve as coordinator for the SANE Program at PSU.

Overstreet said that because she is the only SANE nurse in the area, she must limit her care to pediatric patients. Adults over the age of 17 are sent to another county, and sometimes another state, to be examined. Those under 17 are sent to a facilities as far as two hours away and at greater personal and financial cost.

“Being told help is unavailable in our county can worsen the trauma for these victims,” she said. “We never want to tell a victim no.”

Overstreet, said that SANE nurses are not on call and only help when needed.

“I work full time and have a family and sometimes I have to make a choice,” she said. “I feel guilty when I have to say no.”

She says having more SANE nurses will help keep victims in the county and hopefully lead to an increase in incident report and follow through on prosecution.

Via Christi Emergency Department Physician, Dr. Tim Stebbins, said the rural nature of the county has been a hurdle in serving victims.

“It’s a challenging issue already, then you add in the rural nature of the area and it’s even tougher,” he said. “We hope that being able to provide the service locally will serve in gathering evidence and maybe increase the amount of prosecutions and convictions.”

Stebbins said the goal is for the SANE program to expand in the area.

“We’re hoping to eventually reach eight surrounding counties,” he said.

The SANE grant had a rather unconventional genesis. Associate Professor of Nursing, Amy Hite, said she initially wrote the grant as part of a grant writing class.

“I spoke to my teacher and asked if I could do a real grant proposal instead of a fake one,” she said.

That evening, Cheryl Giefer, Director of the Irene Ransom Bradley School of Nursing, received an email about the SANE grant opportunity and offered to mentor Hite in the writing process. Hit spent three weeks collecting data and interviewing law enforcement before writing the grant.

“I received an A on the project,” Hite said.

Moran emphasized the importance of hands-on care in improving life for residents.

“It’s one thing to educate people,” Senator Moran concluded, “it’s another thing to change their hearts and souls.”