Teaching doctors about domestic violence benefits patients

A short training program can equip family doctors to respond appropriately to patients experiencing domestic violence, research finds.

Researchers analyzed data from a randomized controlled trial of 272 female domestic violence survivors aged 16 to 50 years attending 52 Australian primary care clinics.

Doctors in the intervention group participated in a training program designed to help them deliver a brief counseling intervention to women fearful of a partner, while those in the comparison group received standard intimate partner violence information.

The study found that at six months, women whose doctors received specialist training to counsel women experiencing violence felt more supported and less depressed than comparison patients.

At 12 months, their confidence was higher than comparison patients, promoting researchers to call for specialist training for family doctors.

The role of family doctors in supporting survivors of domestic violence often goes overlooked, says Jodie Valpied from the general practice department at the University of Melbourne.

“There is currently no systematic training provided to doctors in this important area,” Valpied says.

“Family doctors are often the first or only point of contact for women experiencing domestic violence. However, there has been limited research to help guide family doctors regarding the care they should offer women experiencing domestic violence.”

The study demonstrated the benefits of training family doctors to respond appropriately to patients experiencing partner violence, says Kelsey Hegarty, a joint chair in family violence prevention at the University of Melbourne and Royal Women’s Hospital.

“Over time, feeling more supported, more confident, and having greater hope could help those experiencing domestic violence feel more empowered to take further steps toward safety,” Hegarty says.

Researchers have used results from this and related studies to develop a Sustainable Primary Care Family Violence Model, which is currently rolling out in a Primary Health Network in Victoria.

The research appears in the journal Family Practice.

Source: University of Melbourne

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