Q&A: Cynthia Clark, A Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner

woman posing in green field

As an emergency department nurse, Cynthia Clark, MSN, RN, SANE-A, saw a need in her local community for more trained and certified Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (SANE). So, she completed training and then enrolled in the Duquesne University School of Nursing SANE-Adult/Adolescent Training Program to help her prepare for certification.

Funded by a Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) grant, Duquesne’s ANE-SANE-Adult/Adolescent Program provides advanced nurse education to increase the number of Registered Nurses who are trained and SANE certified. The program focuses on increasing service to rural and medically underserved areas and areas with a shortage of SANEs. At completion of the program, nurses apply and test for certification through the International Association of Forensic Nurses (IAFN). After certification, nurses may continue to participate in ongoing education and mentoring.

Since becoming certified, Cynthia now works as a SANE program specialist at the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information & Services (FRIS), where she promotes the development of SANE programs by recruiting and training SANE nurses in West Virginia.

In this Q&A, Cynthia shares what SANE certification means to her and how it’s helping her better serve her community.

Why did you decide to pursue SANE certification?

Advanced nursing education always benefits the patient. When I finished my SANE training, I knew I wanted to become certified. As a certified SANE nurse, I am better able to serve my community and improve sexual assault patient outcomes.

Why did you choose the Duquesne University SANE Training Program?

The certification exam does not have a high pass rate, and I felt I needed as much help and support as possible to pass. There is so much information available, and the program helped me to focus on what was important. The program gave me study guidance, suggestions for books and articles to read, and practice questions. I also enjoyed the class time with peers that had the same goal.

Did you feel well prepared for the certification exam?

Yes, the program gave me the confidence to make that appointment and take the exam. The classes, modules and reading resources helped me to prepare for the exam. The program helped me to make study time when there was so much else going on that was pulling my attention away from learning new information or reviewing what I had previously learned.  

What have you been doing since earning your SANE certification?

I have joined a team at FRIS that is dedicated to increasing the number of SANE-trained nurses in West Virginia. We offer 40-hour SANE training that combines online and classroom training, Practicum Skills Day, mentoring and monthly online CEU educational offerings. Our Facebook pages can be found at @WV SANE and @FRIS.

Do you serve as a mentor at your facility?

I presently do not work in my local emergency department, but I am still available to offer training and support to nursing. Working with FRIS and being certified has given me a wonderful opportunity to serve this vulnerable community while helping West Virginia nurses.  

What is your vision for the future?

My future goal is to continue working as a SANE educator with FRIS. I would love to help establish a SANE program here in southern West Virginia. I envision a program that partners with the Health Department, counseling services, follow-up care and collaboration within the community to support sexual assault victims. This vision would be a win for so many people.

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming SANE certified?

I support certification because it improves quality of patient care and increases nursing competence and self-confidence. There are tons of reasons to be certified as a SANE or any in other area of nursing. Some of the reasons are professional credibility, personal satisfaction, clinical competence, organizational recognition and maybe a higher salary. The achievement is worth the study time!

How has the Duquesne University SANE Training Program helped you improve your care to patients of sexual assault?

The Duquesne University SANE Training program helped me to improve all aspects of my care. I feel I have a better awareness of how to meet the needs of patients. There are so many details to be aware of, and I feel it helped me to focus on areas that I was not proficient.

What part of the program did you find most helpful?

I really enjoy the monthly educational offerings, and the online study group was a lot of learning fun. I found the entire program helpful. The certification is granted through the IAFN, and it covers such a broad base of knowledge that joining this program really gave me everything I needed to pass.

Do you have anything else to add?

Waiting for the SANE exam results was not easy since it took at least four weeks to get the results. When I received a letter, I was so full of anticipatory anxiety that I burst into happy tears of joy, which surprised my family. I was so happy I had passed the exam. Everyone in my online study group also passed. I appreciate everyone in the program that helped me to achieve my goal and help sexual assault patients in West Virginia.


The Duquesne University School of Nursing SANE-Adult/Adolescent Training Program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $1,469,650 with no financing by non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS or the U.S. Government.

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