Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

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Nurses help mitigate violence against women

Abuse against women is, sadly, an issue that still exists. RNAO is working towards a solution.

According to Statistics Canada, in 2010, over 4,600 women sought refuge in over 550 shelters across the nation that offered services to abused women. The two main reasons why these women decided to flee? They had been emotionally or physically abused.

Abuse can lead to a number of health concerns, such as depression, eating problems, chronic pain and gastrointestinal disorders.

Nurses interact with women who have suffered such traumas in a variety of settings – including emergency rooms, clinics or public health units – and are in a vital position to help.

Nurses can help organize a safety plan and link women to community supports, such as counseling services or shelters.

They can also draw on RNAO’s Woman Abuse: Screening, Identification and Initial Response best practice guideline (BPG). The panel of experts that contributed to the BPG recommended screening of all women who are older than 12. Asking all girls and women if they have experienced violence affords them a chance to disclose in a safe setting. If more women are asked this question, it could mean prevention of violence, and, in some cases, even death.

The Thunder Bay District Health Unit, the North Bay Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic and Toronto Public Health have all implemented RNAO’s guideline.

Apart from advocating strongly for abuse screening, representatives from RNAO have attended Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women ceremonies (Dec 6). The association also presented a submission in 2010 to the Ontario Women’s Directorate regarding the government’s Sexual Violence Action Plan.

Nurses treat patients holistically, which is why they recognize the devastating physical and emotional impact abuse can have on a woman and her family.

RNAO knows that asking women and girls if they’ve suffered abuse can go a long way towards assisting and providing the proper care for this vulnerable population.

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