By Sylvia Foley, AJN senior editor
Intimate partner violence (IPV) remains a widespread health and social problem in the United States, affecting an estimated one in three women during her lifetime.
Health care providers can make a critical difference in the lives of these women, yet a lack of IPV-related knowledge, negative attitudes and beliefs, and low rates of screening are common. And women in rural areas face particular challenges.
To learn more about rural providers with regard to IPV, nurse researchers Karen Roush and Ann Kurth conducted a study. They report their findings in this month’s CE–Original Research feature, “Intimate Partner Violence: The Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Behaviors of Rural Health Care Providers.” Here’s an overview:
Methods: Health care providers working in a large rural health network were asked to complete electronic surveys that examined their IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Descriptive and correlational statistical analyses of the data were conducted.
Results: A total of 93 providers returned completed surveys. In general, the respondents demonstrated good overall knowledge, judicious attitudes, and beliefs congruent with the available evidence. Of concern were their knowledge and practice gaps regarding the prevalence of IPV, the higher risk of injury faced by women who leave their abusers, the ability of women to make appropriate choices about their situations, and what actions to take when someone discloses abuse.
Conclusion: The results were encouraging with regard to the IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors of rural health care providers. But they also indicated important knowledge and practice gaps. Preparing providers to deliver compassionate, effective care to women who experience IPV is essential for the health and well-being of women and their families.
Implications. Pointing to confusion stemming from variation in state laws regarding mandated reporting of IPV, the authors call for the creation of a uniform national law. They recommend that health care organizations develop formal IPV policies with clear goals and procedures; and they urge organizations to provide IPV-related education for all staff.
And all of this must be built on bedrock:
“Individual providers must examine their own IPV-related knowledge, attitudes, beliefs, and resultant behaviors. They must take responsibility for obtaining information about available resources and for educating themselves about what to do when a woman discloses abuse.”