Are we failing to prepare nursing and midwifery students to deal with domestic abuse? Findings from a qualitative study

J Adv Nurs. 2015 Sep;71(9):2062-72. doi: 10.1111/jan.12666. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


Aims: To investigate student nurses' and midwives' knowledge, confidence and educational needs regarding recognition and responses to domestic abuse.

Background: Domestic abuse is a serious global problem and has greater, negative effects on long-term health than more obvious diseases, such as diabetes. Nurses and midwives are well-placed to recognize and respond to domestic abuse but many lack confidence in this area. There is firm evidence that training can increase the confidence of Registered Nurses and midwives in responding to domestic abuse. But the issue of undergraduate preparation is significantly under-investigated.

Design: A qualitative study.

Methods: Nursing and midwifery students were recruited using purposive sampling. We facilitated eight focus groups with a total of 55 students (student midwives N = 32; student nurses n = 23). Data were collected between May-November 2014.

Findings: Students in the study viewed the issue of domestic abuse as important and they possessed sound theoretical knowledge of its nature and consequences. However, they lacked confidence in recognizing and responding to abuse and were concerned about the implications of this for their future practice as registered practitioners. Interactive learning opportunities that engaged with service users and involved experts from practice were viewed as important educational requirements.

Conclusion: Most students in the study felt insufficiently prepared to deal with the issue of domestic abuse. They perceived this as a cyclical state of disempowerment that would impact negatively on their practice and on their own ability to support nursing and midwifery students of the future.

Keywords: domestic abuse; education; empowerment; midwives; nurses; placements; qualitative; student; violence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Domestic Violence*
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Midwifery / education*
  • Students, Nursing*
  • United Kingdom