Domestic violence is a widespread occurrence with long-term negative social and health impacts. Almost a third of women (30%) are likely to experience some form of domestic violence and abuse, twice as likely as men (Bradbury-Jones & Clark, 2016).
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Nurses often directly work with patients who may experience abuse during routine assessments and other patient interactions. It is rare that a patient would admit experiencing domestic violence, and it is the nurse’s role (on which there has been an educational emphasis in recent years) to be aware of the physical and psychological indicators of violence. In turn, nurses can then initiate conversations with patients and guide them in speaking about the issue and the next steps.
It is also important to consider that nurses can be victims of domestic abuse as well. A recent poll conducted by a nursing organization found that nurses are three times likely to experience such abuse than an average person, most often due to their efforts to stay in abusive relationships and a higher level of tolerance (Selby, 2016). Personal experience with abuse has been noted as a potential barrier when addressing patients of domestic violence, resulting in depressive thoughts or depression.
However, nurses can beneficially use their personal experience to work with such patients. Nurses have a better understanding of the signs and psychological state of domestic violence, more prone to notice signs such as vague descriptions of how injuries occurred or uneasiness, common exemplifications when an individual is subtly seeking help but afraid to voice concerns. Furthermore, comprehension of abusive relationship dynamics and social support systems allows nurses to guide patients through any resources that may benefit them in exiting an abusive relationship as well as advocate for larger societal changes (Alshammari, McGarry, & Higginbottom, 2018).
Alshammari, K. F., McGarry, J., & Higginbottom, G. M. A. (2018). Nurse education and understanding related to domestic violence and abuse against women: An integrative review of the literature. Nursing Open, 5(3), 237-253. Web.
Bradbury-Jones, C., & Clark, M. (2016). How to address domestic violence and abuse. Nursing Times, 12, 1-4. Web.
Selby, A. (2016). Nurses three times more likely to be victims of domestic abuse. Mirror. Web.
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