New tools for domestic violence victims

What is your ED doing on Oct. 10 for Health Cares About Domestic Violence Day? This year, you can commemorate the day by using a plethora of new resources for screening, hosting awareness events, and educating patients.

"Domestic violence is a health care problem of epidemic proportions," says Lisa James, program manager for the San Francisco-based Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF).

"Because so many women turn to the ED to treat injuries and illness caused by abuse, you may be the first and only person who can identify the abuse and help the victims," she says.

On Oct. 10, you should host an awareness- raising event about domestic violence and launch programs to identify and help patients experiencing abuse, James urges.

The FVPF offers numerous educational resources for identifying abuse and helping patients, as follows:

Event-planning packet. This year, FVPF is offering a free "Screening to Prevent Abuse" packet, which you can use to plan an event in your ED, James reports.

The packet includes camera-ready art for safety cards, posters, and advertisements; sample e-mails that providers can send on Oct. 10 to co-workers about domestic violence; sample letters to the editor or op-eds that can be submitted to local papers; screening and assessment tips; sample provider and patient materials; and ideas for activities from providers across the country.

James offers the following ideas for activities this year:

— hanging posters in waiting rooms that advertise resource numbers and staff’s willingness to screen;

— writing a newsletter article on domestic violence or an op-ed for a local paper;

— committing to try routine screening for one week;

— inviting a speaker to conduct a brown-bag lunch on domestic violence for staff.

Screening guidelines. Use these to teach nurses to ask about abuse, and integrate them into your ED domestic violence protocols, recommends James.

The FVPF recommends that you routinely screen for domestic violence, regardless of if there are injuries or indicators of abuse, says James. She says that if a patient discloses abuse, you should do the following three things:

1. Express concern and support.

2. Provide basic information about domestic violence.

3. Offer the patient referrals to local community based domestic violence experts, an on-site social worker, or the national hotline number (800) 799-SAFE.

Laminated practitioner reference cards. James recommends carrying these in your pockets as a reminder to ask about abuse and how to respond if the patient says yes.

Information packets. These include a packet specifically designed for nurses and a packet with tools on how to respond to domestic violence in the ED.

Patient materials. You can give these to patients who disclose abuse or when you suspect abuse, says James. "These include multilingual and multicultural safety cards, educational brochures, and discharge instructions," she says.

Chart stamps. These prompt you to screen and facilitate accurate documentation of the violence, says James.

• Materials to create a domestic violence program. These include posters to hang in ED waiting rooms and treatment rooms to let patient know that they can talk to you about abuse and pins that invite patients to discuss abuse. "We also have sample protocols from EDs across the country that can be adapted for individual departments," says James.

Resource

The Family Violence Prevention Fund offers materials and resources for EDs pertaining to domestic violence. Copies of "Screening to Prevent Abuse," "Battering During Pregnancy," "Domestic Violence Healthcare Protocols," and "Emergency Department" Health Resource Packets of materials are available free of charge. Patient safety cards are available in several languages. The cost is $6 for 50 cards, plus $5 shipping and handling. Laminated 3x5 practitioner reference cards cost $5 for 5 cards, plus $5 shipping and handling. To order, contact:

Family Violence Prevention Fund, 383 Rhode Island St., Suite 304, San Francisco, CA 94103-5133. Telephone: (415) 252-8089. Fax: (415) 252-8991. E-mail: ordering@fvpf.org. Web: www.fvpf.org. (Click on "Health Care.")