Nurse Triage: Connecting Domestic Violence Victims to Support

Studies show that intimate partner violence (IPV), also known as domestic violence, victims often experience abuse or violence on or around major holidays, including Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and even Super Bowl Sunday. There are many reasons for elevated abuse, including stress and increased usage of alcohol or drugs.

The most significant and simple contributor to increased domestic violence reports is prolonged indoor living situations where victims face their abusers.

One of the more recent examples, not relating to holidays, includes the COVID-19 pandemic, which spotlights the IPV health crises.

Reports of domestic violence spiked in many countries around the world during the pandemic. According to a study published in the Radiology journal, five victims of severe abuse were identified in 2020, compared to one in each of the three previous years. 

While many countries saw an uptick in domestic violence, the United States did not. Many advocates believe that mandated reporters, such as teachers, child care providers, and in-person clinicians, have had fewer interactions with children and parents due to social restrictions. Ultimately, leading to fewer opportunities to assess, recognize, and report signs of abuse than they did before the pandemic.

The Relationship Between Telehealth and the Intimate Partner Violence Crises

Historically, medical offices have been a safe place for patients to disclose abuse. Clinicians and nurses have been on the frontlines intervening when noticing symptoms of domestic violence. In their role, they can privately evaluate patients without explicitly asking for that — when assessing patients virtually and in-person.

However, during periods of confinement (especially extended periods) with their abusers, victims don’t have the same opportunity to seek help openly.

As Telehealth’s role continues to evolve in the healthcare landscape, it will also play a crucial role in supporting victims who seek help and support navigating physical and psychological after-effects of the abuse.

Nurse triaging services will be among the top telehealth entities to provide support. Here’s why:

The Art of Listening to Patients: Telephone Triage as a Supporting Lifeline for Victims

A telephone triage nurse’s skill is crucial in supporting domestic violence victims, requiring those in these roles to expand and rely on their critical thinking, reflecting, problem-solving, and listening skills.

In telephone triage, the sight and touch senses are no longer available, forcing telephone triage nurses to rely on only what is heard (in some cases, what is NOT heard), rather than relying on auditory and visual cues to assess the patient’s disposition.

To pick up on signs of a domestic violence victim through the phone, telephone triage nurses will need to take note of these key indicators:

Most importantly, a triage nurse’s compassionate and empathetic heart will help play a role in taking preventative measures to ensure patients’ health and interrupt violence in its earliest forms.

If you or someone you know is suffering from domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Abuse hotline at 1-800-799-7233. For emergencies, please call 911.