02 March 2016

Nurses are a lifeline for domestic abuse and FGM victims

Nurchat discussion on domestic abuse and FGMNurses are ideally placed to support domestic abuse and FGM victims, but being short on time, resources or training could mean some patients don’t feel able to ask for help.

Nurses and healthcare professionals frequently help patients through the most difficult, painful and traumatic periods in their lives. Remaining professional and compartmentalising emotion is something that many nurses practice daily and it’s never easy. Emotional resilience can be especially challenging when treating a victim of domestic abuse or female genital mutilation (FGM).

Sadly, cases of both domestic abuse and FGM are on the rise in the UK, although it’s hoped that this is due to better reporting methods and increased awareness. Recorded cases of domestic abuse in England have reportedly risen by 31% since 2013 and it’s now mandatory for nurses to report known cases of FGM in under 18s to the police via the 101 service. We’re seeing more cases of FGM protection orders being granted as it becomes a mainstream health issue and the taboo of speaking about it is gradually broken down.

So how can over-pressured nurses working in a stressful and potentially under-resourced environment be receptive to the sometimes over-looked signs that a patient may be a victim of abuse? How can nurses give them the time, attention and security to open up? Well, the answer is there’s no easy answer.

Many #NurChat nurses who participated in a twitter chat on this topic felt well aware of safeguarding and reporting procedures, but have received little specific training regarding FGM or domestic abuse. Historically FGM victims lived in urban areas, but it’s now estimated that no local authority area in England and Wales is free from FGM. It’s no longer an issue confined to certain geographic areas and national training, such as this online course from the Home Office, should be more widely available.

It’s extremely difficult for anyone suffering any kind of abuse to open up about their experiences and ask for help. Fear, denial and embarrassment are all significant barriers, but the experience of an under-staffed healthcare environment and over-pressured nurses will only serve to reduce the chances that a patient will feel comfortable enough to talk about their experiences. Resourcing should be considered a key part of creating a safe place for victims to receive the help they require.

To read the full transcript from Tuesday’s Nurchat twitter chat, click here.

#NurChat will return on 15th March at 8pm with a focus on using social media to enhance nursing practice and student nurse development.