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

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, January 23, 2014

Kristine Aznavoorian, RN, MS, had been a practicing pediatric nurse in Boston for five years when she encountered subspecialists known as Pediatric Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners. Now she works with young victims of heinous crimes.

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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