MSUB Alumni selected as 2016 40 Under Forty

Tami Grewell

AAS LPN 2007
AS Nursing 2010

 SANE clinician, program coordinator, Billings Clinic


Tami Grewell

In an ideal world, the services that Tami Grewell and other nurses in the SANE program provide wouldn’t be needed.


In reality, the SANE program at Billings Clinic provided more than 100 evidence-collecting exams for victims of sexual assault in 2015. SANE stands for Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner. Grewell runs the program in which specially trained nurses are available around the clock to provide examinations and collect evidence from victims of sexual assault.


Because they deal with patients who have experienced serious trauma, SANE examiners must approach their jobs with great care, Grewell said.


“You try to build a rapport with patients,” Grewell said. “Having worked in the emergency room before this, I’m used to dealing with patients who are hurt or sick. Sometimes we deal with patients who want to get it over with right away. Sometimes they’ll need a little extra time and support.”


Other sources of support are available for sexual assault victims. The YWCA provides advocates for sexual assault victims, as does the Phoenix Center from Montana State University Billings.


“It can be emotionally taxing sometimes,” Grewell said of her job. “But it’s definitely a needed service. It’s still a program that people don’t’ know a lot about. Even other employees at Billings Clinic haven’t heard about it. But we try to promote awareness so people know that people can come here if they need to. It’s a free service. There’s no charge for an exam.”


Victims of sexual assault represent all races, all ages and all genders. Grewell has seen victims who ranged in age from 17 months to their 70s.


When she’s not working at the Billings Clinic, Grewell stays busy working at what she calls her “ideal job,” the family farm near Silesia. “I spend a lot of time on a tractor. I’m also a pretty good carpenter. We built our own house 11 years ago.”


What’s the biggest challenge you face in your job? There are a couple: Emotional stress, dealing with victims can wear on your heart. But knowing what an important and much needed service this is for this community helps keep all the nurses in this program going. Next is burnout. This is an emotionally demanding job. I cover a minimum of 60 hours of call each week and the other nurses take on 48 hours of call each month on top of other full-time positions throughout the organization so there can be a high rate of turnover. 


What’s the best business advice you have received? You are only going to get out what you are willing to put in. You have to spend money to make money. In my current role the first part of that applies most. 


Who gave you that advice? My husband says it every time he buys another tractor or more cows.


Here’s what I’d like to do to improve my community: I’m going to strive to make sure this program continues on. I’d love to see our services expand to offer assistance to victims of domestic violence/abuse as well as human trafficking.


Outside of work, my biggest passion is: My family. I have three wonderful kids who are very involved at their school. Nothing makes me happier than being able to cheer them on at sporting events, or listen to them sing and play instruments at band and choir concerts. 


Which living person do you most admire? My grandfather, “Papa,” who passed away a little over a year ago. He was one of the hardest working men I know. He was a farmer who loved his family. 


Aside from profit and loss, how do you measure success in your job? Patient satisfaction and safety is very important, in both my role as an Emergency Nurse and a SANE. In both areas you are taking care of people at some of the most vulnerable times in their lives. 


What do you consider your greatest achievement? My children. We became parents at a very young age. I still remember sitting there the first day of what was supposed to be my junior year of high school six months pregnant (married) trying to decide whether to go to school or not and I just cried. I decided to stay home, God had a new path for my life and my new priority was being a mom. I finished high school from home and once my youngest turned 4 is when I headed to college. 


I’m happiest when I’m… spending time outdoors with my family or playing volleyball.


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Article & Photo credits: Billings Gazette


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