One in four women will experience domestic abuse in their lifetime. Women experiencing IPV generally have worse health than women who don't. Health issues can include chronic problems with depression, headaches, digestion, and kidney or bladder function. They also experience poorer pregnancy outcomes and lower birthweight babies.
One of the most important things nurses can do to address IPV is to privately ask all female patients about violence. This can occur during any patient encounter. Even if a woman's partner has accompanied her into the exam room nurses can separate the patient from her partner by creating a reason for the partner to leave the exam room and then asking her brief screening questions.
Strategies for nurses include asking broad questions, such as: "How are things at home?" or "How are you and your partner getting along?" Questions linked to clinical observations include: "You seem very anxious and nervous. Is everything all right at home?" or "When I see injuries like this, I wonder if someone purposley hurt you?" Targeted questions could include: "Are there ever times when you're scared of your partner?" or "Are you concerned about your safety or the safety of your children?" Knowing that the Safe Nest hotline is accessible 24/7 gives nurses a tool if the patient acknowledges abuse of any kind.
A nurse's response to a victim disclosing can have a profound impact on a survivors' willingness to seek further help. "Just" listening can result in an empowering experience for a woman who has been abused. Validating her decision to disclose by thanking her for answering honestly: "It must have been difficult for you to talk about this", strengthens a victim's hoope that other's care. Emphasizing the unacceptability of violence dispels the violent partenrs' threats that no one will believe her. Say to her, "You do not deserve to be treated this way." Referring the survivor to a domestic violence program connects her to a wide variety of services that will help her safely plan her next steps.
Imagine what could be achieved if all nurses were as informed about domestic violence as they are about other prevention issues or general patient care? Imagine how meaningful it would be for nurses who themselves are experiencing IPV if this topic could be discussed in informed and supportive ways.
In 2000 the American Nurses Association issued a position statement enhancing an awareness of and commitment to ending domestic violence. If you would like a presentation about patient screening for intimate partner violence and Safe Nest services, please contact Kat Pulver at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 702-877-0133 ext. 243. If you are interested in donating or organizing an event to benefit women and children receiving services from Safe Nest, please contact Hannah Brook at email@example.com or by calling 702-877-0133 ext. 242.