Intimate partner violence screening and intervention: data from eleven Pennsylvania and California community hospital emergency departments

J Emerg Nurs. 2001 Apr;27(2):141-9. doi: 10.1067/men.2001.114387.


Objective: To provide clinical practice recommendations for screening and interventions for intimate partner violence (IPV) in ED settings.

Setting: Eleven mid-sized community-level hospital emergency departments (20,000 to 40,000 admissions annually) in Pennsylvania and California.

Participants: All women (4641) aged 18 years or older who came to the emergency department during 309 selected shifts.

Methods: An anonymous survey inquiring about physical, sexual, and emotional IPV was conducted from 1995 through 1997. In addition, medical records were abstracted for every woman (18 years and older) seen in the 11 participating emergency departments during the study period.

Results: The vast majority of both abused and nonabused women supported routine screening for IPV; however, fewer than 25% of women said they were asked about IPV by ED staff. ED screening rates for IPV were higher among women who came to the emergency department because of acute trauma from abuse (39%) than for women who reported that they had been abused within the past year (13%). The prevalence of past year and lifetime IPV was significantly higher when the questionnaire was self-administered than when it was administered by a nurse. More than a third of women who had recently been abused and 76% of women who acknowledged experiencing physical or sexual IPV within the past year reported that they did not come to the emergency department for treatment of an injury. Although the majority of women (76% to 90%) agreed with the concept of health care providers reporting IPV to the police, women abused recently were significantly less likely to support this practice.

Conclusion: The study provides evidence supporting standard protocols for routine screening for IPV among women who come to emergency departments and chart prompts for both screening and interventions. These actions are acceptable to the majority of both abused and nonabused women seen in the emergency department and should be considered in systematic repeated training of health care professionals in emergency departments. This information is important for health care providers who are seeking to improve their identification of and care for abused women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • California / epidemiology
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards*
  • Emergency Treatment / psychology
  • Emergency Treatment / standards*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Community / standards
  • Humans
  • Mandatory Reporting
  • Mass Screening / psychology
  • Mass Screening / standards
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data*
  • Medical History Taking / standards*
  • Needs Assessment
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pennsylvania / epidemiology
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Prevalence
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Spouse Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Surveys and Questionnaires