The role of public health nurses in responding to abused women

Public Health Nurs. 1996 Aug;13(4):263-8. doi: 10.1111/j.1525-1446.1996.tb00249.x.


The public health nurse (PHN) has a unique opportunity to identify and provide support to women who are abused by their partners. Earlier studies indicated, however that health professionals identify less than 10% of the abused women in their practice. In this study, a sample of 125 nurses responded to a measure called the Public Health Nurse's Response to Women Who Are Abused (PHNR), which consists of a vignette portraying a home visit to a young mother who showed indicators of abuse. The average PHNR score obtained was 80.8% indicating a high frequency of thoughts, feelings, and interventions that would facilitate abused women feeling helped. High scores were correlated with increased age, personal experience, number of years of public health experience, and workshop attendance. The PHNs' responses to open-ended questions revealed that they experienced a wide range of strong emotions in dealing with these dangerous situations. While the nurses believed that addressing abuse was within their professional role, 55% were unsure of what to say to initiate the topic. Suggestions about how to introduce the subject of family violence and the training needs of PHNs are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Job Description*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Nursing Staff / education
  • Nursing Staff / psychology
  • Public Health Nursing / methods*
  • Social Support
  • Spouse Abuse / diagnosis
  • Spouse Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires