Soldotna hospital reduces forensic nurse service

ANCHORAGE — The Kenai Peninsula's largest hospital is down to three nurses with training in forensic examinations and has stopped offering most overnight exams.

Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna on Monday ended exams between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m., the Anchorage Daily News (http://bit.ly/1b9fTIl) reported. The hospital will try to respond in the middle of the night to crisis situations that involve sexual assault or battered victims, said Colleen James, coordinator of Clinical Forensic Services.

Forensic exams can also include victims of child abuse, neglect, assault or other injuries.

James said trained nurses were spread too thin.

"In order to keep our nursing staff, we really needed to come up with a model that was going to allow people to get rest," James said.

The program will change to allow nurses to work set hours instead of being on call. The goal is to let them "rejuvenate and not burn out," James said.

"It's really hard going to bed at night and not knowing if you're going to be called in in 20 minutes or three hours," she said.

The Soldotna hospital has employed as many as six nurses for the job, James said.

James splits her time between Soldotna and Homer's South Peninsula Hospital, where she and one more nurse perform exams. The Homer hospital has not offered exams at all hours since about 2001.

Jennifer Enersen, a Soldotna nurse trained in forensic exams and critical care, said by email she had done four child abuse exams in 16 hours.

"I have been on call since Tuesday evening at 7 p.m. It is now Saturday morning at 6:15 a.m. Each exam takes up to 4 hours and that does not include nursing documentation, coordination of services, referrals, follow up exams, testifying in court as needed, and release of records to law enforcement and Office of Children's Services and other agencies involved," Enersen wrote.

Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage shut down overnight exams Oct. 1 when its trained staff fell from 16 to eight. The hospital plans to resume exams in evenings starting Nov. 16.

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