Domestic violence: Hospitals must screen patients--and employees--for signs of abuse

The job of screening patients for domestic violence is difficult enough for nurses and hospital staff, but is even more troubling when their coworkers are the victims of violence at home.

A new report in The Baltimore Sun recounts the story of the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, where two employees were killed in domestic violence incidents less than a year apart. Naturally, the article noted, fellow staff members and coworkers of the employees all wondered if they could have done more or seen signs of trouble. 

"Everyone wanted to know if we missed something. We felt kind of helpless," Michele McKee, a nursing supervisor at the organization, told the Sun.

As a result, the hospital is now adopting new training for employees to recognize the signs of abusive situations not just among patients but among each other.

The article cites 2012 research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and the Injury Control Research Center at West Virginia University that indicates as many as 12 million people in the U.S.--mostly women--suffer from domestic or sexual violence or stalking by their intimate partners every year. 

As hospitals shift from fee-for-service models to patient-centered models of care and look at each patient's whole situation, it is more likely that healthcare workers will be on the frontline of domestic abuse detection. Maryland's Carroll Hospital recently launched a training program for personnel to spot domestic abuse and--above all--not put patients at further risk.

Patient advocates argue that these types of programs are also needed to detect and prevent the abuse of children and the elderly.

To learn more:
- here's The Baltimore Sun article

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