"Swiss cheese memory" beneficial in traumatic experiences

Students receive instruction on how to examine a rape victim.

Kansas City, Mo. (June 6, 2014) - Forensic nursing is a specialty practiced at the intersection of health care and the law. The role of a forensic nurse is to provide emotional support and offer comfort to people who have been traumatized.

The forensic nursing elective is new to St. Luke’s this summer. Assistant Professor Beth Cita, M.S.N., B.S., R.N. is teaching this class because she has a strong passion for treating victims of sexual assault.

“The years of career I have left I want to focus on preventing violence. Greater than 50 % of children who witness violence in their homes will become a perpetrator or victim,” explained Cita.

A survivor of trauma herself, she wanted to be able to use education as a way to prevent violence by giving health care provider’s awareness, and to show how important attitude is in the treatment of those sexually assaulted.

Class presentations include representations from: The Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, The Kansas City Anti-Violence Coalition, the LGBTQ Community. There is also a speaker who will discuss man-on-man violence. Students will also have the opportunity to learn valuable nursing responses in a demonstration of sexual assault using the mannequins in the simulation center at St. Luke’s College of Health Sciences.

Student Debbie Luckett explained why she choose to take this elective, “I feel I will use this information wherever I go, and I don’t want to be prejudiced when taking care of suspected victims of sexual assault.” She also explained that she thought it would be interesting to see this side of nursing, because nobody really wants to focus on it.

Angie Blumel, Director of Advocacy Services with the Metropolitan Organization to Counter Sexual Assault, gave a presentation on examples of things nurses as forensic examiners might encounter when working with victims of sexual assault and rape. Blumel has been a victim advocate for 12 years at the rape crisis center for the Kansas City metro area. She was very excited to speak at Saint Luke’s College because she feels that nursing professionals need to have the information provided to help victims feel more comfortable coming forward to receive support and help in dealing with their sexual assault.

“Medical professionals have a lot of power, they have a great deal to do with how a victim responds either negatively or positively to their trauma,” she said.

She also explained that the brain is an amazing organ, in that it has the power to protect the victim from remembering all the details of the trauma, a phenomenon she described as “Swiss cheese memory.”

Cita explained that nurses take care of victims of sexual assault anywhere in nursing settings. She feels that all healthcare workers need to have knowledge on how to ask the appropriate questions from a victim, and the proper attitude to use to promote trust and a positive outcome for the patient.

“Nurses have been the most trusted profession for the last 11-12 years, except firefighters in the year 2001 due to 9-11”, Cita says.

Working in the emergency room a nurse might be the first responder immediately after a traumatic situation happens, or a nurse who is in the Medical-Surgical department may treat a patient experiencing a wide range of health problems related to violence that may have happened years previously. 


For more information:
Amber Lauenstein, Second Semester Junior
Saint Luke’s College
624 Westport Road
KC, Mo. 64111