A new Northwestern Polytechnic online course aims to provide rural healthcare workers with specialized training to support sexual assault victims in the province. The course focuses on the technical and emotional skills involved in a Sexual Assault Evidence Kit exam.
During the March 20th announcement, Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women Tanya Fir explained in many rural areas of the province survivors of sexual violence may have to travel large distances to access a SAEK exam.
The evidence collected during these exams is used by law enforcement in their investigation, but this can only be done in hospitals that have healthcare providers who are trained and comfortable performing evidence collection. If the victim’s local hospital is unable to perform the collection then they will have to go to a different facility that is able to.
“This can be hundreds of kilometres away sometimes and, unfortunately, many survivors therefore forego the option of having their evidence collected and sadly, this decision is one that survivors have to make too often,” Fir says.
“Every person who’s been sexually assaulted deserves access to care and forensic evidence collection, regardless of where they live, and as part of Alberta’s government $1 million investment and status of women. The course focuses on the technical and emotional skills required to administer a SAEK exam.”
Fir adds the creation of the course is ensuring current healthcare providers in rural and remote areas have the training to provide the community with the best support they can. While the course is voluntary for these providers, Fir says all healthcare workers in a rural environment are being encouraged to take the course. She adds the provincial government will pay for healthcare workers in these rural and remote areas to take the course.
Associate Dean of Continuing Education at Northwestern Polytechnic Michelle Wallace explains the course is self-study and will take 10 to 12 hours for a healthcare worker to complete, giving those taking the course the flexibility to complete the modules as they have time.
“Grande Prairie is considered a rural hospital. So we’re excited that we’re able to, you know, help even victims in our area as well,” Wallace says.
Registration for the online course is now open, and the course will start on April 3rd.