Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario screening tool helps nurses identify abuse against women

TORONTO, December 4, 2012 /Canada NewsWire/ - More than 450 nurses and other health-care professionals will take part in a webcast this week to learn how to better identify and deal with signs of abuse/intimate partner violence in female patients. The event will take place in Toronto on Wednesday (December 5) on the eve of Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

Participants will be reviewing recommendations contained in a clinical practice guideline titled, Woman Abuse: Screening, Identification and Initial Response Best Practice Guideline, which was developed by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) in 2005 and updated this year.

Kathleen Fitzgerald, one of the nurses who led the work on the guideline and its recent update, says the physical and emotional health consequences of violence are profound and enduring.

"RNAO's guideline provides nurses with evidence-based knowledge and strategies to help break the cycle of violence against women. Nurses are well-positioned to screen for potential abuse. They are accessible, they enjoy a high degree of public trust and work in a variety of settings where they interact with female patients,"

says Fitzgerald, who also sits on RNAO's board of directors and works as a sexual assault nurse at Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora.

According to the federal government's latest statistics, out of 100,000 women aged 15 and over, 574 reported being victims of dating or spousal violence. The rate for women is four times greater than it is for men. The National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women was established by parliament in 1991 to mark the anniversary of the Dec. 6, 1989 murder of 14 young women at I'Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal. They were killed because they were women.

The RNAO guideline provides recommendations, strategies, and resources for nurses and other health-care professionals to encourage routine universal screening for all women and girls. The guideline contains a questionnaire to help nurses assess if female patients are suffering from abuse and, if so, how severely. For instance, one question asks if you have been kicked, hit, slapped, or physically hurt by your partner or ex-partner within the past year. Another question asks if you have been raped or forced to have any kind of sexual activity by your partner or ex-partner within the past year.

Among the recommendations laid out in the guideline:

...Routine universal screening should be implemented in all health-care settings for all females, ages 12 and older.

...Nurses should foster an environment that encourages women and girls to open up about abuse.

...Nurses should develop screening strategies that reflect the needs of all women taking into account differences based on culture, race, ethnicity, class, religious/spiritual beliefs, age, and/or sexual orientation.

...Nurses should know their legal obligations when a woman/girl reveals she is or was abused.

...All nursing school curricula should incorporate content on abuse against women.

RNAO's Best Practice Guidelines Program is funded by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, and was launched in 1999 to provide the best available evidence for patient care across a wide range of health-care settings. The 50 guidelines developed to date are a substantive contribution towards building excellence in Ontario's health-care system. They are available to nurses and other health-care professionals across Canada.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For more information about RNAO or to learn more about this guideline, visit our website at You can also check out our Facebook page at and follow us on Twitter at

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