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Shortage of nurses certified to perform sexual assault exams in Virginia, new study finds

RICHMOND, Va. -- There is a growing shortage of nurses certified to perform sexual assault examinations in Virginia, according to a CBS 6 and a  recent study

"Forensic nurses take care of patients who have been victims of child abuse, of sexual assault, domestic violence, elder abuse, human trafficking, strangulation," said Bonnie Price, Administrative Director, Community Health Advocacy, Bon Secours Richmond.

Bonnie Price has been a forensic nurse for 26 years and is one of the founders of the Bon Secours Richmond Health System Forensic Nursing Program.

"We take care of about 2,500 calls for service a year, making us one of the busiest forensic nursing programs in the country," said Price.

Price also leads a 24/7 forensic program at Bon Secours St. Marys Hospital in Richmond.

There are 122 licensed hospitals in Virginia and only 16 of them provide sexual assault exams. Statistics show that number is declining.

"There are lots of reasons for it," Price said. "Reimbursement issues, training and maintaining staff. Sustaining the nursing programs is a real challenge."

Weiss's study also shows that out of nearly 100,000 registered nurses in Virginia, less than 200 are qualified forensic nurses.

Kendall Plummer is among the .2 percent of forensic nurses in Virginia and works under Price at St. Mary's Hospital.

"I know one day we saw 18 cases," said Plummer.

Price tells CBS 6 that there is high turnover rates for forensic nurses and believes the lack of support for the emotional work they do is a factor.

"Violence is a healthcare issue, it's not just a criminal justice issue," said Price. "There are two sides to this issue and I think we need to address it in both directions."

If you are a victim of sexual assault, you can get in touch with a forensic nurse by clicking here.

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