Friday Q&A with Jennifer Pierce Weeks

Today marks the 1st in what I hope to be a weekly series here at the Sustainability blog: a Q&A with a coordinator from a well-established program. A little something to inspire and reenergize for our Fridays. I can't imagine kicking off the series with anyone other than my good friend, Jennifer Pierce Weeks, coordinator of the The Forensic Nurse Examiner Program at Memorial Health System in Colorado Springs, CO and current president of IAFN. She inspires and reenergizes me on a regular basis, and more importantly, she keeps me laughing.

I’ve been a SANE since: I have been a practicing Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner since 1995, and a Registered Nurse since 1986.

Hospital or community-based program? My clinical practice has primarily been in hospital-based programs, but I also practice in a community-based Child Advocacy Center.

I’m a SANE because: It was obvious to me as an Emergency Department nurse that no one wanted to care for this patient population.  But, in addition to that, sexual assault patients were judged harshly by health care providers, often blamed for the assault.  And little if any consideration of the genuine health risks and effects were afforded these patients.  Becoming a SANE allowed me to take care of these patients in a way that preserved their dignity while providing them the best possible treatment.

The best advice someone ever gave me was: Go play with your children.  Thank you Susan Chasson.

A skill every SANE should have is: Critical thinking, and the ability to express verbally the “why” behind all aspects of the medical/forensic exam.

A skill every program coordinator should have is: Succession planning. None of us is here forever.  If you coordinate a program it is probably time to start thinking about who can effectively replace you.

More money or more staff? More staff, specifically long-term staff

I wish someone had told me when I was first starting out:
•    Data is critical
•    You cannot succeed in a vacuum
•    Don’t be afraid to ask for money

My most indispensable resource is: Well, it is a not a “thing”.  The most indispensible resource I have are the colleagues who are genuine and true to the practice of nursing, because I rely on them to keep me grounded when I run into stumbling blocks or challenges, or individuals that may not see the “big picture.”  Or if I lose sight of the “big picture” they can always bring me back around.

My strong suit is: My ability to appreciate that goals can be accomplished in a variety of ways, and change is not only inevitable but appreciated.  I do not and will not always have the right answer, but I likely have a source for the journey to finding it.

I would rather eat glass than: Tell a patient they cannot have a medical/forensic examination because law enforcement didn’t “authorize” it.

I take care of myself by:
•    Taking Susan Chasson’s advice.  See Number 4.
•    Finding time for important friends

It will be time to do something else when: Hmmm, I am not sure.  I will just have to wait and see.

In 10 years I would like to be: Good question.  I will have to give the professional side of this some thought.  But at a minimum, I would like to be watching my beautiful daughter Kearstin graduate high school.

Words of advice for a struggling SANE program coordinator?
•    Money isn’t everything
•    Keep enough data so you can document your program’s worth
•    Keep the health care of your patient’s as the primary focus
•    Don’t keep your program a secret
•    Don’t be afraid to ask for help
•    Self-evaluate

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