Are Staff Nurses Prepared to Care for Domestic Violence Victims?

As nurses, we advocate for our patients and we attempt to provide them with the best care possible based on theory, evidence-based practice, and research. Nurses advocate for women who are abused and attempt to counsel them on their value and who they are as a person. Nurses attempt to help heal victim’s wounds and find resources for them to continue on with life, preferably a healthy, happy, and safe life. The problem comes in when nurses are unprepared to collect evidence in the ER or office when a domestic violence victim seeks our help. The victim does not often get a second chance and so as nurses we can’t afford to miss anything, and we need to get everything right the first time for these women. How many times have we seen the perpetrator get off free because of lack of evidence? In many large city hospitals forensic nurses are trained and on staff 24/7 to provide care and collect evidence when domestic violence victims are brought in. My question is what happens to the victims that seek care in a small town hospital? Many of these hospitals see domestic violence victims infrequantly and don’t have adequately trained staff to care for them when they do seek help. As a former ER nurse I have been in situations caring for rape victims. We had a kit available but read through it step by step and prayed we performed the exam correctly. I believe a nurse with knowledge of an advanced health assessment can be a great help to victims in being able to detect abnormal findings and reporting them in full detail. This is a great start, but what else can nurses in small hospitals do to make sure domestic violence victims receive care a forensic nurse can give without the forensic nurse qualifications?

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