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Norton Sound Health Corporation, Nome, AK

Forensic Healthcare Approach

Norton Sound Hospital in Winter

Accessing sexual assault and domestic violence (SA/DV) treatment is a challenge for Alaska Natives living in remote areas. Due to barriers such as low staff retention, creating and sustaining a forensic nursing program for this region seemed impossible. However, by using DVPI funds, forensic nurses have implemented the forensic healthcare project "Medical Forensic Services for the People of the Bering Strait Region of Alaska" at Norton Sound Health Corporation (NSHC) to improve availability of SA/DV services in this region. NSHC is located in Nome, Alaska and serves 15 villages within the 44,000 square miles that comprise the Bering Strait region.

The Forensic Nursing Program of NSHC has experienced growth and transformation since receiving the DVPI grant in 2010. Their program began with minimally trained Nurse Examiners providing medical forensic exams for victims of sexual assault and child sexual abuse. The staff are now trained to respond to domestic violence, address child physical abuse, report strangulation, and offer services to children who witness violence. Throughout their journey, they have gained community trust, participated in intensive staff training, and created policies and procedures that build partnerships to foster comprehensive and trauma-informed care. A key to their success is adjusting their forensic nurse team to hire full-time nurses who are given positions of responsibility. This has eliminated the rapid turnover that plagues many SANE Programs.