VUSN and Sexual Assault Center develop online training for student volunteers

WHNP and NMW students

Soon Vanderbilt University School of Nursing (VUSN) students interested in serving as crisis and support line volunteers for Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center (SAC) will be able to do so from any location in the country. All it will take are commitment, cell phones and a newly developed modified online training program envisioned by Ginny Moore, DNP, WHNP-BC, and SAC’s Amanda Markham.

“Many of the VUSN Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner (WHNP) students have a strong interest in working with sexual assault survivors,” Moore said. “But because some of the students are located outside of the Nashville area and are literally all over the country, the requirement that volunteers receive face-to-face training with the SAC staff was a real obstacle.”

Moore wondered if VUSN’s expertise in the modified block distance learning, which combines on-campus concentrated sessions with online classes and coursework, could be used for SAC training. She, WHNP instructor Jessica Searcy, DNP, FNP-BC, WHNP-BC, and Markham, who coordinates training for SAC, worked to adapt SAC’s crisis line orientation manual into a curriculum that could be delivered in a similar manner.

They then teamed up with Diana Vasquez, VUSN’s academic instruction designer, to create a training program that would be accessible to out-of-town students and meet SAC’s stringent requirements.

“Last fall, VUSN technical staff videotaped all the SAC training sessions. Diana worked with us to produce learning modules to be used between the first and last training sessions,” Moore said. “Then we scheduled the first and last sessions to be held as two face-to-face classes here in Nashville during the students’ WHNP curriculum block visits (concentrated classes during weeklong sessions).”

SAC’s crisis line preparation is comprehensive and challenging, requiring 25 hours of training. The crisis phone line is open 24 hours a day and certified volunteers provide frontline emotional support, practical help, information and crisis intervention counseling to people in need following a sexual assault. The nearly 40-year-old nonprofit is the only Middle Tennessee center dedicated to providing counseling to sexual assault victims, nearly half of whom are children.

The inaugural class of VUSN SAC volunteers includes three Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner students, a Family Nurse Practitioner student and a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner student. They expect to finish their crisis line volunteer training on November 14 and can begin taking shifts as phone volunteers after that.

Five Vanderbilt University School of Nursing students are in the midst of 25 hours of training as crisis line volunteers for Nashville’s Sexual Assault Center (SAC). They are, from left: Emilie Gelpi, Lex Ryan, Cynthia Tran, Maggie Halloran, Kaitlyn Breiten and Susannah Spero. Gelpi, Tran and Halloran are in the Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner program, Spero is a Family Nurse Practitioner student and Lex Ryan is a Psychiatric-Mental Health Nurse Practitioner student.