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Nurses and Barriers to Screening for Intimate Partner Violence

Furniss, Kathleen DMH, RN; McCaffrey, Mary RNC; Parnell, Vereene MDiv; Rovi, Susan PhD

MCN: The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing: July-August 2007 - Volume 32 - Issue 4 - p 238–243
doi: 10.1097/01.NMC.0000281964.45905.89
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Purpose To elicit thoughts from perinatal and emergency room nurses about barriers to screening for intimate partner violence (IPV).

Design and Methods A survey was developed and distributed in hospitals and on a national perinatal listserv. Three hundred eighty-five nurses responded.

Results Responses were grouped by content into the four most prominent categories: lack of privacy and time, need for resources and protocols, legal questions, and personal belief issues. The survey found that time alone with the patient to ask sensitive questions and offer support and safety information is a challenge for nurses, as are language barriers.

Clinical Implications Nurses who completed this survey suggested that routine screening intervals during prenatal care and after delivery may improve identification of IPV, because privacy may be less of a challenge in a clinic or office. Nurses would like brief, clear resources that include local IPV services and hotline numbers. They also would like regular continuing education about IPV in the clinical setting, including all aspects of IPV assessment, identification, and management.

These nurses used the Perinatal Listserv to discover why nurses all over the United States were reluctant to assess women for intimate partner violence.

Kathleen Furniss is the Coordinator, Women's Imaging, Mountainside Hospital, Montclair, NJ. She can be reached via e-mail at

Mary McCaffrey is a Clinical Nurse Specialist, Anne Arundel Hospital, Annapolis, MD.

Vereene Parnell is an Associate Dean, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Susan Rovi is an Assistant Professor, Department of Family Medicine, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Jersey School of Medicine, Newark.

The authors have no conflicts, and this material has not been published elsewhere.

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.