Friday Q&A with Jennifer Meyer

Jennifer Meyer runs Forensic Nursing Services of Providence, in Anchorage, Alaska. In the short period of time she's been there, she's tackled some huge challenges and yet, still has a passion and drive for the work that I really admire. Sharing a meal is always a high point for me when I make my way up there, and I always love to hear about the "visitors" she gets to her clinic:

[photo credit: Jennifer Meyer]

I've been a SANE since: 2003

Hospital or community-based program? I have worked in both types of programs. My current program was community-based from 2003-2008. Recently the program was transferred through a contract to Providence Alaska Medical Center. Our clinic though, is community based - not on the hospital campus.

I'm a SANE because: I was forced to!!! I was working in a rural ER and had been told by management that all of our SANEs were leaving and that the responsibility of seeing the patients would fall to the ER nurses. This terrified me - I didn't have a clue what to do for the patients. About that same time there was going to be a SART/SANE training in my community. I took the class and soon found that I loved the patients and the work. I am still a SANE because I want to ensure that the patients we serve have the best possible health care response to the trauma they have lived through.

The best advice someone ever gave me was: Remember that you are a nurse and they are the patient - maintain that relationship and you can't go wrong!

A skill every SANE should have is: I wish that every SANE had the ability to be grounded in the work they are doing as NURSING; not criminal justice, not law enforcement, not as an evidence technician, etc.

A skill every program coordinator should have is:
Don't lose your sensitivity for your staff and your patients but at the same time build a huge arsenal of thick armor (that is accessible at any moment) for when you have to "face off" with your multi-disciplinary team members whose goals may be very different from yours.

More money or more staff?
Can you really get one without the other??? At the moment, I would like more money only so I could afford to entice more staff.

I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out:
"Hang on; it's going to be quite a ride!!!" Seriously though, I wish I had really HEARD it when I was told in the beginning that the case outcomes really didn't hang on my care. (I know you told me that Tara, but it wasn't until a few years into this work that I really heard you!!!)

My most indispensable resource is: The network of fabulous SANEs I can reach out to in a moment's notice who never fail to respond! Those phone calls I would make at 0300 - "I know what I'm looking at ain't normal....what the hell do I do now?" If a SANE tells you that they are there for you, then they are - reaching out will be your most indispensable resource!

My strong suit is: The answer to this question changes depending on the day. Lately though, for those of you that know me will understand when I say, PERSEVERANCE. Asking for help and knowing where the resources are that will help with what my program is trying to accomplish without having to reinvent the wheel.

I would rather eat glass than: give up the nursing component of being a SANE!

I take care of myself by: Spending time with family/friends/pets, reading fun books, turning speculums into cute little dolls....[Jen Markowitz: as the recipient of one of these I can say everyone should be so lucky to find a box on their doorstep containing one of her creations!]

It will be time to do something else when: I can't imagine doing anything else right now. But I guess I'd be done when there is no more violence...or when the nursing is taken out of forensic nursing.

In 10 years I would like to be: I hope to have advanced my practice by then to be able to offer more comprehensive care to patients who have been affected by violence.

Words of advice for a struggling SANE program coordinator? Chances are that someone else has been in a similar position so please reach out to others! If the first person doesn't respond, find someone else! You may be the "lone ranger" in your community, but many of us are out here and ready to help in whatever way we can.