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HL20: Kristine Aznavoorian, RN, MS—Working to Heal Sexually Abused Children

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, November 27, 2013

In our annual HealthLeaders 20, we profile individuals who are changing healthcare for the better. Some are longtime industry fixtures; others would clearly be considered outsiders. Some are revered; others would not win many popularity contests. All of them are playing a crucial role in making the healthcare industry better. This is the story of Kristine Aznavoorian, RN, MS.

This profile was published in the December, 2013 issue of HealthLeaders magazine.

"When it comes to evidence collection and an examination, we just try to do it as efficiently as possible without traumatizing the child any further than they already have been."

Kristine Aznavoorian, RN, MS, had been a practicing pediatric nurse in Boston for about five years when she became aware of the subspecialists known as Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners, or pedi-SANEs.

"It fascinated me," Aznavoorian recalls. "These children are looking for certain help, and I really enjoyed that thought of helping them in a very crucial and traumatic time of need."

Now, in addition to her work as a pediatric emergency nurse at Boston Children's Hospital, Aznavoorian also works part-time as a pedi-SANE for the Massachusetts Department of Public Health at the Essex County Children's Advocacy Center, where she investigates two or three sexual abuse cases each week.

For pedi-SANEs, there is no such thing as routine. The one constant, though: Dealing first-hand with the young victims of heinous crimes is never easy.

"Every case is different," says Aznavoorian, who has been a pedi-SANE for two years. "Every child deals with a traumatic event a little differently. It depends on the developmental level of the child, how old they are. It plays into how they are going to handle the situation, but it is across the board."

In some cases, if there is an opportunity to gather physical evidence of sexual assault for prosecutors, Aznavoorian asks the victim or their families for permission to perform a physical examination.

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