One in four women in the UK will experience domestic violence at some point in their lifetime, which means that every practice nurse will have contact, often repeatedly, with women who are affected. While Womens' Aid's experience of working alongside healthcare professionals demonstrates that there is generally a will to engage with domestic violence as a healthcare issue, the specialists at its national training centre often hear from health professionals that they lack the confidence to raise the subject of domestic violence with patients. Often, nurses aren't given the support they require to properly assess patients for risk of domestic violence and the information needed to refer them to specialist services.
Health professionals play a key role in the lives of patients. Their work includes asking highly personal and sensitive questions, to help patients optimise their health. Because they are uniquely placed to ask such sensitive questions, practice nurses also have a key role to play in identifying and supporting victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) because domestic violence has a huge impact on the physical and psychological health of those who experience it. This includes psychiatric problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicide attempts, physical injuries and gynaecological problems.