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Published on February 09, 2015

Spartanburg Medical Center Nurse Receives Spartanburg County Solicitor’s Award

Spartanburg Medical Nurse Kelli Clune

Nurse Kelli Clune saw a need in the Spartanburg community for forensic nurses and made it happen. Because of her work, she was recently awarded the “Bill Barnet Service Above Self Award.”

“I was shocked, amazed and humbled,” Clune said. “I don’t see what I do as extraordinary; I just saw a need and started doing it.”

Clune is the coordinator for the Spartanburg Medical Center (SMC) Forensic Nursing program. She was recognized by the 7th Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office for her care of crime victims during difficult times and her ability to effectively testify during criminal court proceedings.

Forensic nurses are trained Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANEs). They combine the education of a registered nurse with the forensic aspects of a scientific investigation of the trauma inflicted during acts of violence. They deliver trauma-informed care to minimize the long-term negative impact experienced by victims of violence and ensure that follow-up care is provided to begin the healing process. They also serve as witnesses by giving expert testimonies in criminal court.

“Her leadership has helped us develop a sexual assault team in pediatric and adult nurse examining,” said Glenn Gann, Director of Nursing for Emergency Services at SMC. “In difficult situations, these patients receive specialized care. The impact of the training, care and education that has been provided is tremendous.”

Clune has worked for eight years with adult abuse victims and six years with children. The cases have increased since starting the program.

“I fell in love with the work,” Clune said. “There are certain wounds that are 99 percent trauma-based, but things were being missed because that specific training wasn’t there. I also like learning the science behind it.”

South Carolina currently has 12 forensic nursing programs. Of the approximately 139 trained SANEs who work with adult patients, only 15 SANEs are trained to work with children. The SMC Forensic Nursing program has 14 registered nurses trained and nationally certified in the care of adult patients; three registered nurses are trained in the care of children. The team provides services for patients from Spartanburg, Cherokee and Union counties.

“The biggest thing is that it has tremendously increased the amount of examinations we do for pediatrics in particular. Kelli has increased awareness,” Gann said. “Kelli is at every new hire orientation for nurses, and the nurses go through a full class to understand what happens and how to recognize signs of abuse. It is good for the community, because we can better recognize these signs. Kelli has done an immense amount of work on the community and state level.”

After abuse has been reported, the child has often been questioned by multiple adults. The children are often very frightened by the time they get to forensic nurses.

“Evidence can be lost during some forensic interviews, because the children will be asked so many questions that they will clam up,” Clune said. “We play and bond with the children to make it less scary in order to get the information. We give holistic care, where we look at both the physical and emotional side of trauma. We also serve the suspect and work to be non-biased.”

Along with her medical role, Clune also goes to court, provides education and training, and is part of a statewide team that writes to state legislature as part of her work.

The Forensic Nursing Team continues to grow, and SMC conducts yearly Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner training. The goal of the program is to have a SANE-trained professional present 24/7, and to be the preferred center of excellence for the care of patients who have experienced interpersonal violence.

“With winning this award, I’m hoping this will increase word-of-mouth in the community,” Clune said. “I want to raise awareness and bring more education to the area.”

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