1. Your Role as a Healthcare Provider/Hospital Administration

Intimate partner violence is a health issue. “In addition to the immediate trauma caused by abuse, domestic violence contributes to a number of chronic health problems, including depression, alcohol and substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV/AIDS, and often limits the ability of women to manage other chronic illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. Despite these facts, a critical gap remains in the delivery of health care to battered women, with many providers discharging a woman with only the presenting injuries being treated, leaving the underlying cause of those injuries not addressed”, according to “The Facts on Health Care and Domestic Violence” by Futures Without Viloence (FWV).

Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers are in a unique position to intervene with patients dealing with IPV and prevent future abuse through education and service referrals. Victims of IPV are more likely to seek assistance for abuse from their healthcare providers than mental health providers or IPV agencies. In fact, healthcare providers are oftentimes the only people IPV victims trust enough to disclose abuse in their lives.

In order to improve the health outcomes of patients impacted by IPV, healthcare providers should:

  • Participate in IPV training to gain a greater understanding of the effects of IPV on patients overall health and improve skills to conduct effective IPV assessments and provide service referrals;
  • Routinely screen/assess for IPV with all female adolescent and adult patients and boys and men exhibiting signs of abuse;
  • Educate patients about the impact of physical, psychological and sexual abuse related to overall health;
  • Provide patients impacted by IPV with referrals for services such as local IPV agencies, legal assistance for protective orders, the hospital’s social service department, and at minimum an IPV hotline number.
  • Follow-up with patients who are IPV victims to ensure that desired services have been obtained and that the history of abuse is documented.

Hospital Administration

Hospital administrators play an essential role as institutional leaders to make systems changes that promote routine IPV assessments and effective partnerships with local IPV nonprofit agencies and law enforcement authorities, including:

  • Instituting routine IPV assessments with patients as a hospital-wide expectation for teenage and adult women, as well as teenage and adult men presenting symptoms of abuse;
  • Developing and updating IPV Policies and Practices that are distributed to all employees (a criteria for hospital accreditation through The Joint Commission);
  • Creating a culture where IPV victims are supported and encouraged to seek assistance from hospital and other medical providers;
  • Creating a multidisciplinary IPV Task Force that has the authority to:
    • Make revisions to IPV Policies and Practices
    • Assess IPV training needs annually for both clinical and non-clinical employees
    • Design IPV trainings in partnership with experts from local IPV advocacy agencies
    • Develop formal partnerships with local IPV advocacy agencies to promote effective referrals and service integration
    • Obtain adequate hospital resources and personnel to make the IPV Task Force successful in its mission
  • Developing a written IPV Training Plan (also required by The Joint Commission); and
  • Serving as a role model by championing the cause of routine IPV assessments and integrated services for patients.