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Healthcare Professionals Twice as Likely to Experience Domestic Violence

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Healthcare professionals are twice as likely to experience domestic violence as the national average of women, according to new research launched today.

Researchers at the University of Worcester’s National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse (NCSPVA) Conducted research with 86 healthcare professionals across the UK which revealed that:

  • Half of the respondents had experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives, representing twice the national average. This highlights a significant vulnerability within the healthcare sector workforce.
  • Healthcare professionals’ perceptions highlighted how “private matters should remain private” and they felt that the culture within the healthcare sector may silence potential vulnerabilities, such as domestic violence. As such healthcare professionals reported feeling reluctant to seek help from their employer for fear of embarrassment, a perceived lack of confidentiality or stigma.
  • Two-thirds of healthcare professionals in the study ask patients about their experience of domestic violence at least once a week, with three-quarters having received a disclosure from a patient. This raises questions as to how nurses as victims or survivors of domestic violence are being supported to manage the care of patients who are also affected by this concern.

The research was facilitated by Cavell Nurses’ Trust following sponsorship by a generous grant from the Garfield Weston Foundation. The NCSPVA will launch its key findings at the University today (Friday 25th November) as part of the campaign for International Day Against Violence Against Women.

Kirsty McGregor, researcher within the NCSPVA, said: “The data from our research is very concerning and there are important questions to be asked about why healthcare professionals appear to be more vulnerable to domestic violence, and what the implications are for the NHS and its managers to be more vigilant and responsive to this concern in the workplace.

“Healthcare professionals may have more understanding and tolerance of abuse due to their altruistic values. Healthcare professionals’ training still focuses on the key components of care, commitment and compassion and this not only tends to relate to their professional role but also perhaps how they see themselves in their home life.”

Ms McGregor said that prior to the research little was known about the prevalence and impact of domestic violence abuse on healthcare professionals, however, due to the largely female workforce it was anticipated that around a quarter would have had some experience of domestic violence. As such discovering that the risk is actually twice this requires further consideration, she said. The NCSPVA is now planning further work with health professionals across the UK following the shock findings.

“This research  and its impact enables health sector employers, victim support charities and researchers the opportunity to recognise the potential prevalence, the impact on nurses and their families and  the wider costs of domestic violence to the healthcare sector and society, “ she added.

John Orchard, Chief Executive of Cavell Nurses’ Trust - the charity that provides help and financial support to nursing professionals suffering hardship – added: “When we get a call from a nurse, midwife or healthcare assistant who is fleeing domestic violence we can quickly get funds to that vulnerable person, helping them to secure a safe home for them and very often their children. This research is vital in understanding why nurses seem more at risk of domestic violence than the public and we hope this can continue the difficult conversations that need to be had in order to halt this abuse.”