What stops health care providers from screening for partner violence?

Evidence suggests it is good practice for health care providers to ask women if they are experiencing Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) on a routine basis. At the same time, our prior research demonstrates that, to be effective, screening programs require institutional support, training for providers, protocols, and access to appropriate external and internal services.

We asked 20 people – health care providers, administrators and researchers – from 8 Toronto teaching hospitals if they screen for IPV and if not, why not.

They shared some barriers that prevent them from performing routine screening:

  • Lack of knowledge about how to identify and deal with IPV.
  • Concern about harming patients by asking questions that could potentially trigger feelings
    of re-victimization.
  • Competing priorities and lack of time (for example, in Emergency Departments).
  • Lack of privacy in some clinical settings.

They also shared some of the factors that make it easier to perform routine screening:

  • Institutional support at all levels of the organization.
  • Training for health care providers.
  • Personal experience with IPV or with people who have experienced IPV.

This partial environmental scan is only the beginning, and will be used to help direct future, solutions-based research. You can download the full report, Reaching Out: Asking about partner violence in Toronto teaching hospitals, here.

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