Veteran emergency department Nurse Karen Reid-Williams was at the end of a long shift, squinting through fogged-up goggles and sweating under her N95 mask and paper gown, when another nurse approached and asked her to talk to an uncooperative patient. And maybe do a forensic exam, if it was warranted.

Reid-Williams looked at the woman, who seemed under the influence of drugs, thrashing on a bed. Her first thought was it seemed pointless to even try to get a consent for such an exam in the patient’s current condition. But Nurse Stephanie Moultrie was insistent something was wrong and needed looking into – despite a police officer’s assessment that this was a simple drug overdose case.

At Community Medical Centers’ downtown trauma center and busy emergency room, nurses have learned to take second looks at patients, listen deeply for what’s being said – and not said – and to have a sixth sense about unseen traumas. Reid-Williams, who heads Community’s SAFE (Sexual Assault Forensic Exam) Program, said she’s learned to trust those instincts in her fellow nurses.

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