Objective: Our purpose was to define screening behaviors of obstetrician-gynecologists and barriers to screening their patients for domestic violence.
Study design: A questionnaire was developed to collect information on current practices and attitudes regarding screening for domestic violence. A randomly selected sample of obstetrician-gynecologists was surveyed. Respondents were also asked to rank a series of 19 potential barriers that may affect screening.
Results: Of 6568 physicians sampled, 962 (14.6%) returned questionnaires. Of the respondents, 77.6% were male and 22.4% were female. Male physicians were less likely to screen for domestic violence (25.9% vs. 18.9%). Thirty-four percent said that they had no training in abuse. Physicians indicating they had received training in abuse were more likely to screen for domestic violence. The lack of education was identified as the most common barrier physicians have to screening. The feeling that abuse was not a problem in their patients (46%), lack of time to deal with abuse (39.2%), and frustration that the physician cannot help the victim (34.2%) were other common barriers.
Conclusion: The majority of obstetrician-gynecologists do not screen their patients for current or past domestic violence. If universal screening is to become a reality, educational tools and training materials are needed to overcome physician barriers.