Forensic Nursing Education

Train to Retain: SANE Expansion in the Upper Midwest

Train to Retain: SANE Expansion in the Upper Midwest is a nurse training program developed to increase the number and distribution of forensic nurses across Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and beyond, therefore increasing access to post-assault care across the Midwest. Registered nurses and advanced practice registered nurses from any specialty are eligible to participate. Train to Retain is funded by a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA).


Introduction to Forensic Nursing

A forensic nurse, sometimes called a forensic nurse examiner (FNE), or sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE), is a specialized nurse that provides post-assault care to people who have experienced sexual assault, intimate partner violence, child abuse, elder abuse, human trafficking, and other types of violence. FNEs can work in a variety of different settings, including emergency departments, child advocacy centers, and community clinics, and they provide care to patients across the lifespan, depending on their training and experience.

Post-assault care provided by a forensic nurse includes thorough documentation of a patient’s medical and assault history, a full physical and genital exam, written and photographic documentation of injuries, treatment for any injuries or medical conditions, collection of forensic samples, the provision of pregnancy prevention medication and prophylaxis for sexually transmitted infections, connection with community resources, safety planning, liaising between the patient and law enforcement, and more.

Many of the forensic nursing jobs that you will find in urban or suburban areas are part-time on-call positions where you are required to be available for a certain number of hours per month to respond to patients seeking post-assault care. These programs often respond to a number of different facilities in a certain area.

Forensic nursing in rural areas varies greatly, but there are still abundant opportunities for forensic nurses to make a difference in the lives of patients following an assault. Sometimes, emergency department nurses at smaller hospitals obtain forensic nurse training so that they can respond to patients who seek post-assault care as a part of their regular duties. In other cases, a facility might maintain a small team of forensically trained nurses who perform post-assault care only if they are available.

Becoming a SANE

Becoming a SANE  

Step 1: Didactic Training

The first step in becoming a forensic nurse is to complete a 40-hour didactic, or lecture-based, class.

Forensic nursing splits patients into two age groups. Patients ages 0 – 12 are considered pediatric, and patients 13 and over are referred to as adults/adolescents. Therefore, forensic nurse education is divided along the same lines. There are two didactic classes to cover these two patient populations: the adult/adolescent didactic class, and the pediatric didactic class.

The didactic classes cover topics including the history of forensic nursing, the provision of trauma-informed care, the criminal justice process, evidence collection, and more. There are different options for obtaining this training, including online and in-person.

Starting with the adult/adolescent class is the most common first step and is the step you should start with unless you will exclusively be working with pediatric patients at a child advocacy center or similar.

Completing either the Adult/Adolescent or Pediatric didactic class earns you a certificate of completion but does not make you a certified forensic nurse.

Find a list of upcoming training and registration information.

Step 2: Complete Hands-On Training and Obtain a Job as a Forensic Nurse

Following completion of the didactic classes, the next step is to obtain hands-on training and clinical experience. The three main components of hands-on training are Clinical Skills Labs, Preceptorships, and on-the-job training.

On-the-job Training: In most, cases, you are eligible to find a job as a forensic nurse once you have completed the adult/adolescent didactic class. Certain programs may require the completion of a skills lab or preceptorship, but in general, completion of on-the-job training is the only clinical training required before you can practice independently as a forensic nurse. For our forensic nurses, this training period is usually from 3-6 months long and is comprised of the new forensic nurse first observing, and then performing post-assault care while supervised by one of our experienced forensic nurses.

If you will be practicing in a rural area, this type of training may not be available, and attending a skills lab and preceptorship would be even more valuable.

An Adult/Adolescent Clinical Skills Lab is a 2-day in-person training utilizing live models and scenario-based practice meant to increase proficiency in the skills and exam techniques introduced in the didactic class. The skills lab is facilitated by experienced forensic nurses.

A Pediatric Clinical Skills Lab is a 1-day in-person training that is different from than adult/adolescent skills lab in that live models are not used for practice. Instead, the lab uses scenario-based practice facilitated by local Child Abuse pediatricians, forensic nurses, and clinical social workers. Topics covered at the lab include normal exam findings, psychosocial assessments, caregiver history taking, and more.

A preceptorship is an opportunity to practice skills with real patients while being supervised and guided by an experienced forensic nurse. Two preceptorship opportunities are available through our program.

Find a list of upcoming training and registration information.

Step 3: Get Certified

Obtaining a certification in forensic nursing is an excellent way for experienced forensic nurses to validate their knowledge and skills and demonstrate expertise. There are currently four forensic nursing certifications offered by two different forensic nursing professional organizations.

From the International Association of Forensic Nurse Examiners (IAFN):

From the Academy of Forensic Nurses (AFN):

  • GFN-C™ - Generalist Forensic Nurse Certified
  • AFN-C™ - Advanced Forensic Nurse Certified
About Us

About Us

Train to Retain: SANE Expansion in the Upper Midwest was originally funded for a three-year program by the Health Resources and Services Administration in 2018 and was awarded continuing funding for another three years in 2021.

Program Staff

Project Director: Breanna Heisterkamp, BSN, RN, PHN, SANE-A, SANE-P

Breanna has been working as a Forensic Nurse Examiner for four years with the Hennepin Assault Response Team (HART), one of the largest forensic nursing programs in the Midwest. Breanna was the Senior Staff Nurse (formerly called Forensic Program Coordinator) for HART from May 2020 to July 2022, where she served as the clinical lead on the team. She is now the Clinical Care Supervisor, leading HART both clinically and administratively. Breanna is certified as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner in the pediatric, adolescent, and adult populations.

In addition to training, precepting, and supporting new forensic nurses in her own program, she is a content expert and presenter to other nurses, multidisciplinary care providers, and community agencies as the Project Director for Hennepin Healthcare’s funded grant through HRSA’s ANE SANE Program, Train to Retain: SANE Expansion in the Upper Midwest (September 2021 – June 2024).

Project Coordinator: Stephanie Dutenhafer, MA

Stephanie Dutenhafer is a detail-focused education planner and partnership builder; organizing and implementing all day-to-day functions of the grant-funded program Train to Retain: SANE Expansion in the Upper Midwest. Dutenhafer has a master’s degree in grant writing and management, which complements her undergraduate study focused on human service and healthcare management. She has professional experience supporting various multidisciplinary efforts to address sexual violence in her community, including direct victim/survivor advocacy, advocate support, healthcare administration, and, currently, management of the aforementioned HRSA-funded project, which has provided no-cost training to more than 600 forensic nurses across the Midwest to date.

Forensic Examiner Training Specialists

  • Emily Broderson, MN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
    Emily Broderson has been a sexual assault nurse examiner for ten years and has experience facilitating skills labs, participating in curriculum quality improvement projects, and developing continuing education webinars for forensic nurses.
  • Jennifer Canton, MSN, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P
  • Jessica Clayton, RN, SANE-A, SANE-P, GFN-C
  • Gail Hansen, RN, MS, SANE-A, SANE-P

Program Results

View a summary of our achievements from our most recent year (June 2021 – June 2022)

Frequently Asked Questions

You must have an unencumbered registered nurse (RN) or advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) license, from any state, in good standing, to participate.

The expectations of participation are that you will complete all training that you sign up to take and respond in a timely manner to direct communication from program staff. Other than that, there are no obligations to enroll as a participant in this program.

Generally, no. There are two exceptions:

  • The in-person didactic classes require you to place a refundable deposit to hold your seat. If you attend the training, the deposit is returned.
  • If you are traveling from over 100 miles away to attend any training, your travel costs are reimbursable. You will incur travel costs (hotel, airfare, rental car, uber/taxi, parking) upfront, and then submit proof of expenses following completion of the training. You will then receive a check in the mail for the total costs incurred. Those who travel locally (from less than 100 miles away) are not eligible for travel reimbursement.

Yes! Program staff will first check to see if there are other SANE grant programs offering the same training closer to you, and if not, you are welcome to participate.

About Our Facility

The main HCMC campus is in downtown Minneapolis. Hennepin Healthcare’s Minneapolis campus spans five city blocks and houses in-patient and ambulatory services, our Level I Adult and Pediatric Trauma Center, and numerous specialty clinics. We provide the full spectrum of care for patients, from primary care to hospitalization through rehabilitation.


Stephanie Dutenhafer, MA

Project Coordinator
[email protected]