CPR Executive Director to Speak at International Forensic Nursing Conference

Isle Polonko, Executive Director

This week, August 5th through the 9th, the Pontifical Catholic University of Minas Gerais in Brazil in conjunction with SOBEF, the Brazilian Society of Forensic Nursing is to host their first conference on forensic nursing. It is an honor for Ms. Polonko to have been asked to speak on the use of Gynecologic Teaching Associates (GTAs) in SANE, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training. This is a critical component of training for SANEs and is an issue Ms. Polonko has been instrumental in establishing here in the United States.

A decade ago, GTAs were just beginning to be used in the training of SANEs. There are different levels for training to be a sexual assault nurse examiner as well as different specialties within the field. The first level of training is an initial 40 hour didactic training. It was only during this first stage of training that GTAs were initially used. At some point during these 40 hours, GTAs would, and still do, participate in the training by teaching those pelvic examination techniques specific to the trauma exam. The teaching methodology is the same as the patient empowerment model used in well patient GTA programs across the United States where the GTA is both the instructor and the patient. This provides a unique opportunity for learning in a quality controlled, anxiety-free environment conducive to learning these sensitive examination techniques. This methodology has been extensively studied and analyzed since its earliest beginnings in the late 1960s and proven to be the single most effective way to learn invasive genital clinical skills examination techniques.

In 2010, Ms. Polonko, then the GTA Program Director at New Jersey Medical School, Rutgers in Newark, NJ, saw a need in the field to incorporate the specialized skills of GTAs in simulation to train on the forensic evidence collection kit, sometimes referred to as the rape kit. A grant was conducted with Lisa Pompeo, MD as the primary investigator and Ms. Polonko as the grant administrator. The data collected showed the effectiveness of using GTAs in simulation to train on the specific components of the kit; the trauma interview, physical exam and documentation/chain of custody. The International Association of Forensic Nurses conducted their own study and issued the results in 2014, again showing the effectiveness of using GTAs in live simulation to train on the kit. From that point on, GTAs were used in a second component of SANE training, the Clinical Skills Labs, where attendees could obtain their certification, when previous attempts could prove difficult, especially in rural areas of the country. Today, GTAs are routinely used not only in the anatomical instructional segment of the training, but in simulation as victims of sexual assault to provide opportunities for SANE trainees to practice different segments of the kit. GTAs also provide opportunities for attendees to practice speculum insertion to competency.

In May of 2019, Ms. Polonko, along with colleague, Eileen Allen, SANE Program Coordinator in Monmouth County, NJ, traveled to Aracaju, Brazil to participate in a conference on forensic nursing at Tiradentes University, again, in conjunction with SOBEF. While at the conference, a training was conducted at the University to set up the first ever SANE program in Brazil as well as the first ever GTA program in Brazil. Both programs work in cooperatively with one another and have succeeded in training additional SANES in Brazil. This year, due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference at PUC (Pontifical Catholic University) of Minas Gerais was moved to a virtual platform. The conference has a number of exceptional speakers and will address critical issues associated with sexual assault. Ms. Polonko will be speaking on Friday, August 7, 2020 at 3:00pm. Colleague, Eileen Allen, will speak on the method of SANEs to identify and work with sexual assault victims who have suffered strangulation during the assault. Ms. Allen’s presentation begins at 4:00pm.

Please visit the link below to view the schedule and from there, click the appropriate tabs to register for the conference.


Please join SOBEF, the Congresso’s esteemed speakers and other attendees in learning about the important work being done in Brazil. Opening remarks begin at 6:00pm Wednesday, August 5, 2020. Congratulations to PUC of Minas Gerais for hosting their first Congresso in the field. Ms. Polonko is excited to be a part of this very important event.