Denise Abdoo, PhD, CPNP, Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) Program Coordinator and member of the Child Protection Team at Children's Colorado, was named a 2021 National Magnet Nurse of the Year by the American Nurses Credentialing Center in the Structural Empowerment Magnet® Model Component Category. This award recognizes outstanding contributions of clinical nurses to innovation, structural empowerment, leadership and professional risk-taking.
Nurse of 20 years recognized for creating trauma-informed, pediatric-focused system
Abdoo is being recognized for her work leading the hospital in creating a holistic system of trauma-informed, pediatric-focused care for some of the most vulnerable children in Colorado and the surrounding region.
In 2014, Abdoo helped develop the Pediatric SANE program at Children's Colorado and treated 13 pediatric and adolescent survivors of sexual assault and exploitation in the first year. Abdoo's influence over the program ensured Children's Colorado's patient-centered care focused on pediatric development beyond strictly forensic evidence. After a child interacts with the SANE Program, the child receives follow-up care with infectious disease specialists, the Child Protection team, and behavioral health within days of their visit. By 2019, the program had expanded its screening capabilities and services to serve more than 70 children in one year.
Research leads to screening tool
Abdoo's dedication to addressing child sexual assault and exploitation led her to use pediatric research to identify more children who could benefit from her team's care. Abdoo validated a screening tool for child human trafficking for use in a busy pediatric emergency department. Her validated 6-question, multilingual, confidential electronic screening tool was quickly implemented at Children's Colorado, and the publication of her research acts as a guide for emergency departments and local child protection colleagues.
"The research project that was the impetus for my nomination for this award validated a confidential screening tool for child sexual exploitation in a busy pediatric emergency department," said Abdoo. "My research team wondered how we could better screen high-risk adolescents. This was all sparked by a SANE nurse who advocated for further investigation of one patient, which led to the discovery of an entire human trafficking ring, thus helping, and advocating for multiple trafficked persons."
Mentoring nurses to better serve vulnerable populations
In addition to her screening work, Abdoo developed web-based educational training that includes lectures, case presentations, and discussions with psychologists, toxicologists, and attorneys to help SANE nurses gain a better understanding of the needs of sexually abused children and their journeys through healthcare. Her education also trains pre-hospital providers to distinguish between inflicted injury and accidental injury.
Abdoo spends her free time mentoring SANE nurses at Children's Colorado, CU College of Nursing Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner students, and in the community. She's also a consultant for the CU Child Abuse Clinical Competency Committee and the Colorado Child Welfare Training System.
"Abdoo is an outstanding clinician, scholar and advocate for a vulnerable population of children and the nurses who work with them," said Pat Givens, DHA, Chief Nursing Officer at Children's Colorado. "Abdoo's contributions to policy work and systems change is unprecedented. The kids in her care benefit from her unending compassion and dedication to her work. In addition to caring for children, she also makes sure SANE nurses across the Mountain West region have access to resiliency resources and programs for clinicians working in this emotionally challenging role."
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