Identification of abuse in emergency departments: effectiveness of a two-question screening tool

J Emerg Nurs. 1995 Oct;21(5):391-4. doi: 10.1016/s0099-1767(05)80103-5.


Objective: A national health objective for the year 2000 is that at least 90% of hospital emergency departments have protocols for routine identification, treatment, and referral for victims of spouse abuse. An effective assessment tool is needed to implement such protocols.

Methods: To test the effectiveness of a two-question, nurse-administered, screening tool to detect physical abuse, 416 black, Hispanic, and white women coming to public and private emergency departments with vaginal bleeding were asked two questions. Additionally, a 14-item Danger Assessment Scale to determine risk factors of homicide was administered to all women.

Results: In response to the two-question abuse assessment screen, 38% of the 416 women reported a history of physical or sexual abuse. For 61% of the women, the last episode of abuse occurred within the last 12 months. White women reported significantly more abuse than other ethnic groups (chi 2 = 18.71; df = 2; p = 0.00009). Teenagers reported more risk factors of homicide.

Discussion: Abuse to women who seek care in emergency departments is common and easily detected with a straightforward two-question screen. Universal assessment and accompanying information on safety and community resources is essential to interrupt abuse, prevent further trauma and potential homicide, and promote the health and safety of women.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Racial Groups
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Factors
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*