Nurses call on health-care organizations to screen all women for abuse

    TORONTO, Dec. 6 /CNW/ - As the National Day of Remembrance and Action on
Violence Against Women draws public attention, Ontario nurses are calling on
health-care organizations to implement universal screening to help identify
victims of violence.
    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) says nurses see the
devastating effects of woman abuse first-hand. Whether they work in emergency
rooms, in community health and family planning clinics, or visit new mothers
in their homes, nurses in every possible setting witness the physical,
emotional and spiritual trauma that violence causes. Nurses also interact with
women during times of stress and illness, as well as during life transitions
such as adolescence, pregnancy and parenthood.
    "The various interactions that nurses have with women and the high degree
of public trust they enjoy make them ideally-suited to talk to women about the
impact of abuse. That's why we developed a best practice guideline which
recommends that at every appropriate opportunity nurses ask all females aged
12 and over if they've ever been in an intimate relationship that was
emotionally, physically or sexually abusive," explains Mary Ferguson-Paré,
President of RNAO.
    Statistics show that women who are abused are likely to visit a
health-care facility 11 times before the abuse is recognized. Evidence shows
that when nurses directly ask all women about abuse, it gives those in
dangerous situations an opportunity to disclose violent incidents, discuss a
safety plan, and get vital information about community agencies that provide
counseling, shelter and other types of assistance.
    A number of health-care organizations have implemented RNAO's guideline
and screen all women for abuse, but RNAO would like every woman in the country
to be asked about violence during routine interactions with health
professionals. "We are calling for an immediate implementation of universal
screening for woman abuse," says Doris Grinspun executive director of RNAO.
"The time for action is now. If every nurse in every health-care organization
in Canada was asking women about abuse, imagine how many acts of violence
could be prevented and how many lives could be saved," adds Grinspun.
    On a day that we remember the violent and senseless deaths of 14 young
women in Montreal, Ferguson-Paré urges health-care organizations to take a
lead in preventing violence against women by making a commitment to introduce
nurse-led screening programs in their facilities. "Nurses have the skills and
expertise needed to talk to women about abuse, but they need the support of
their management teams. We're asking health-care organizations to do three
things: develop policies and procedures related to woman abuse and the role
nurses play in screening; give nurses the time and education needed to become
familiar with specialized interviewing techniques; and establish partnerships
with community agencies. RNAO will provide any advice and expertise needed by
organizations that are ready to do all they can to protect the women in their
communities from violence."
    Nurses at Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) routinely ask all females
over the age of 12 if they've ever experienced physical, sexual or emotional
abuse. They are following a protocol that was recommended in a report issued
by the Health Unit's Task Force on the Health Effects of Woman Abuse in 2000.
The MLHU is enhancing its screening program by incorporating recommendations
outlined in RNAO's best practice guideline.
    On Friday, December 7, Deb Matthews, Ontario's Minister Responsible for
Women's Issues and the Minister of Children and Youth Services, will be
visiting the Health Unit to learn about the role nurses play in protecting
women and girls from violence. During this briefing, front line nurses will
describe the numerous health and safety benefits of routinely screening. This
event will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. and members of the media are invited to
    For more information about the briefing at Middlesex-London Health Unit
and other December 6 events that Ontario nurses are participating in, please

    The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional
association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario.
Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in
nursing practice, increased nurses' contribution to shaping the health-care
system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.

For further information:

For further information: Jill-Marie Burke, Media Relations Coordinator,
Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Work phone: (416) 408-5606, Cell:
(647) 504-4008, Toll-free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.250, E-mail:

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