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Nurse practitioner knowledge of child sexual abuse in children with cognitive disabilities

Koetting, Cathy DNP, APRN, NP‐C, CPNP1; Fitzpatrick, Joyce J. PhD, MBA, RN, FAAN2; Lewin, Linda PhD, APRN, BC3; Kilanowski, Jill PhD, APRN, CPNP4

Journal of Forensic Nursing: June 2012 - Volume 8 - Issue 2 - p 72–80
doi: 10.1111/j.1939-3938.2011.01129.x
Original Articles

The purpose of this study was to describe the knowledge level of nurse practitioners regarding symptoms of child sexual abuse in children with cognitive disabilities. A total sample of 43 nurse practitioners from two professional nurse practitioner organizations was surveyed to assess child sexual abuse symptoms identification in intellectually disabled children using a revised edition of the Child Sexual Abuse Knowledge Survey. Data collected showed nurse practitioners have deficits in identifying various parts of prepubescent female genitalia. The majority of nurse practitioners did not check genitalia in regular physical exams, did not feel competent to perform this type of evaluation, and were not aware of their professional organizations' position regarding checking for child sexual abuse. When assessing a child with an intellectual disability, nurse practitioners must accurately assess physical symptoms and behaviors that could have resulted from sexual abuse. Examining children for sexual abuse is a required duty of the nurse practitioner as evidenced by the position statements of the various professional organizations and nurse practitioners must be aware of their required scope of practice.

1 Assistant Teaching Professor, Sinclair School of Nursing University of Missouri–Columbia, Missouri

2 Elizabeth Brooks Ford Professor of Nursing, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve Unversity, Cleveland, Ohio

3 Assistant Professor, College of Nursing Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

4 Nurse Scientist, Cincinnati Children's Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio

Correspondence Cathy Koetting, DNP, APRN, NP‐C, CPNP, Sinclair School of Nursing University of Missouri–Columbia, S 446, MO 65211. Tel: 314 780–7663; E‐mail:

Received: July 5, 2011; accepted: September 20, 2011

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.
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