On May 9th, Lauren Ernst, right, a senior Villanova University nursing student, shows a sample of a new collection of children’s pajamas and underwear she presented to Jennifer Molnar, MSN, CRNP for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) program based in the emergency department of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). The team sees the highest number of sexually abused children in the city.
Lauren Ernst, a senior nursing student at Villanova University College of Nursing, is a leader who acts quickly and with positive impact. Ernst, from West Hempstead, N.Y., was in her pediatric clinical practicum at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) in the fall of 2009 when she had a conversation with Misty Conlan, MSN, RN, her adjunct faculty for the rotation who also works as a nurse in the emergency department (ED) at CHOP. “She explained that in the ED, children who are sexually abused will come in and then their clothing will be taken away from them for evidence collection, leaving them without underwear or pajama bottoms,” recalls Ernst who reacted immediately when hearing the hospital does not always have a clothing supply to share with the children. Conlan recalls, “She told me about her sorority’s philanthropic theme of child abuse. She asked her sorority to help and raised money.”
“Being a nursing student and a Kappa Delta, I saw that this was a way we could make a difference for the community around us and decided to take on this project,” explains Ernst. Conlan connected her to colleague Jennifer Molnar, MSN, CRNP in the ED who is coordinator for the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART) program which began 18 months ago. Molnar says the multidisciplinary SART cares for children from infancy to their 16th birthday. The team sees a child daily who has sexual concerns and one every day three days who has been the victim of an acute sexual assault within the past 72 hours. Most patients are girls of all ages—recently an eight month old infant was among those who had been assaulted.
Molnar is grateful for the leadership of Ernst who was executive vice president of the Panhellenic Council for two years and a member of Kappa Delta for the past four years. At Ernst’s request, the sorority held a bake sale and raised $200. “With that we primarily focused on the need for underwear and were able to purchase over 250 pairs of underwear and about 10 pairs of pajamas,” says Ernst. She donated them to CHOP’s Molnar on May 9th, the last day of her leadership practicum at the hospital.
Ernst is working with Kappa Delta to develop this into an annual or biannual donation. “What Lauren is doing and has done for the vulnerable and victimized children of abuse and rape is amazing,” says course leader Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, PhD, CRNP, associate professor who specializes in pediatrics and victimized populations. Ernst looks forward to starting her professional nursing career in pediatrics after her May 16th graduation from Villanova.
For more information on the SART program at CHOP, contact Jennifer Molnar, MSN, CRNP, coordinator, at email@example.com.