LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) — A program that trains nurses to conduct forensic sexual assault exams in Lafayette emergency rooms since 2006 expanded to St. Martin Parish last year and plans to continue its outreach into Iberia Parish later this year.

Jill Howell Dugas, Hearts of Hope executive director, tells The Advocate Hearts of Hope began the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners program to alleviate what was often an hours-long wait for an exam and the potential loss of critical evidence, or prevent a patient from leaving the emergency room before treatment.

Currently, there are four SANE-trained nurses taking emergency room calls and more are still in training. Dugas says training takes about a year and includes online and face-to-face classes, clinical experiences and buddy calls with a trained SANE nurse.