Student nurses’ knowledge and attitudes towards domestic violence

Student nurses’ knowledge and attitudes towards domestic violence
Oral presentation at Stop Domestic Violence Conference, Brisbane, 2016

Nurses, the largest group of health professionals have an important role in identifying people who are victims of domestic violence through screening and facilitating their access to assistance and support.  Although women who experience violence use health services more frequently, exposure to this violence is not always identified by health professionals.  The majority of woman who have been abused are accepting of routine inquiry about this abuse yet there is firm evidence that many health professionals are not adequately prepared for this clinical role through their undergraduate education.

Frances Doran

Little research has been undertaken exploring nursing students’ attitudes towards domestic violence. Undergraduate nursing education is key to shaping attitudes and facilitating the development of a comprehensive understanding of domestic violence. A cross sectional survey of undergraduate nursing students enrolled in a three year Bachelor of Nursing program across three campuses of a regional university in NSW, Australia to gain a comprehensive understanding of views towards domestic violence (DV).  As there were no suitable pre-existing, validated published tools suited to exploring in detail the attitudes of nursing students to DV a questionnaire was developed by the authors (both nurse academics). *  

Over 600 students participated in the study:  most were female (87%); in the first year of the program (52%); aged between 17 and 26 years (55%.) Whilst many students understood the nature and consequences of DV, others across the course of the program demonstrate attitudes that reflect a lack of understanding and misconceptions of DV. Gender and age were found to significantly influence attitudes. Students in the 18-22 year age group were more likely to hold attitudes about DV being a private family matter; have a poorer understanding of the forms of violence experienced and were more likely to attribute blame to the abused. Male students were less likely to agree that nurses have a role in providing support around DV and to hold views about forced sex that were tolerant of abusive behaviour.  **

Stereotypical and gendered attitudes that normalise violence within intimate partner relationships and sustain victim-blaming attitudes were evident across the cohort. It is important for nurses to understand the relationship between exposure to violence and women’s ill health, and be able to respond appropriately. These findings will be inform curriculum development and help develop an effective and resilient workforce.  Further research with a larger national cohort is warranted to add to our understanding of nursing student’s attitudes to DV.

* Hutchinson, M & Doran, F. (in press) Psychometric testing of the Inventory on Beliefs and Attitudes towards Domestic Violence. Nurse Researcher.

**Doran, F., & Hutchinson, M. (2016). Student nurses' knowledge and attitudes towards domestic violence: results of survey highlight need for continued attention to undergraduate curriculum. Journal of Clinical Nursing. doi: 10.1111/jocn.13325

Dr Frances Doran and Associate Professor Marie Hutchinson
School of Health and Human Sciences
Southern Cross University, PO Box 157, Lismore NSW 2480, Australia
T: 02 6680 3000| | E:

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