EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - When the unthinkable happens, specially trained professionals are available to provide help and support.
The 96th Medical Group is the first Air Force medical unit in the continental U.S. to have a dedicated in-house sexual assault medical forensic examiners team.
Military hospitals with a 24-hour emergency room are required to be able to provide care and services to victims of sexual assault.
“We created the SAMFE team as a way to provide comprehensive care to patients in the post assault period,” said Mistie Zuromski, Eglin’s sexual assault medical manager.
At the 96th MDG, there are eight trained volunteers. The team can be made up of registered nurses, nurse practitioners, physician’s assistants or doctors trained to help ease and reduce the psychological effects after a sexual assault.
The SAMFE team’s main purpose is to perform mindful and compassionate on-site sexual assault forensic exams after a sexual assault is reported.
The post assault exam is a lengthy and methodical medical process to assess the patient’s trauma while preserving evidence of the sexual assault. The exam is based on the type of assault and carried out according to the patient’s wishes. The patient may consent to all, part or none of the exam.
A localized network within the hospital creates trust and enables a closed- loop of care between SAMFEs, victim advocates, sexual assault response coordinators and law enforcement teams, according to Capt. Karen DeClerck, 96th MDG.
Since the team contains medics with various specialties, the victims are not shifted to other facilities for specific type of care during a time of vulnerability.
Even after the patient leaves the hospital, the VA and the SAMFE team ensure the patient receives follow-up medical care and resources needed throughout the recovery.
“SAMFEs are vital to reducing and eliminating secondary anxiety or pain in the immediate aftermath of an assault”, said Zuromski. “This specialized level of care can only be accomplished in a medical facility with a dedicated, specially trained sexual assault response team.”