Domestic Violence: What Nurses Can Do

Mid adult female nurse comforting tensed pregnant woman leaning on window sill in hospital room
Mid adult female nurse comforting tensed pregnant woman leaning on window sill in hospital room

Domestic violence is viewed as a serious public health and human rights concern as well as is considered as an on-going challenge for nursing. It is a “human rights violation that robs victims of full and equal participation in all spheres of life.”

Domestic violence can happen to anyone as it affects people regardless of race, ethnicity, class, sexual and gender, identity, religious affiliation, age, immigration status and ability. The question is what can nurses do to address this? What is the role of nurses when it comes to domestic violence?

The role of nurses

Nurses are part of a team, specifically the healthcare team which has a central ethic of caring and an agenda of early intervention and health promotion in their work to improve the health status of communities.

Considering this, nurses have an important role to play in their work in hospital and community settings, to assist women as well as their children who are victims of abuse/violence in a domestic situation.There are evidences showing the effects of abuse/violence on women’s and children’s health, and that women regularly seek services from health care workers, including nurses, for health concerns related to this abuse/violence.

Early intervention

While domestic violence remains a serious and frequent aspect of women’s intimate relationships, and women and children suffer health consequences as a result, nurses have a significant role to play in working toward the prevention and early intervention of domestic violence as we have always been taught that early identification and intervention for health problems is the way to prevent serious disability and death.

Nurses must be prepared to educate themselves, and confront their fears, values and beliefs, while working towards creating a supportive environment where in nurses can meet with victims such as women living with abuse/violence or even nurses who are themselves living in abusive/violent relationships to discuss domestic violence in informed and supportive ways.

Just being there

The validation the nurse can provide is tremendously significant as it shows the patient that the problems of abuse are real, they are not unusual, and the survivor of abuse is not to blame for the violence in her or his life.

Encouragement, reinforcement and some facilitation or suggestions for improvement of health and safety of the patient is all that the nurse needs to do. The goal is to just be there for the patient unconditionally.

Facilitating referrals

The nurse can also act as a good referral source for an abused patient and sometimes, even the facilitator of a referral.

Other interventions

Currently, there are professional nursing organizations who were the first among health care professionals to officially declare domestic violence a health problem and to call for routine screening. Other actions in response to the issue are also being taken such as integrating domestic violence into the curriculum of almost all baccalaureate nursing education programs so as to educate future nurses of this problem. Also, both male and female nurses have been on the vanguard of nursing research and advocacy.


Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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