Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Woman Abuse: Screening, Identification and Initial Response

Project / Initiative: 
Mental Health & Addictions Initiative
Type of Guideline: 
Publish Date: 
About this Guideline:

The overall purpose of this guideline is to facilitate routine universal screening for woman abuse by nurses in all practice settings. The intended outcome is increased opportunity for disclosure, which will promote health, well-being, and safety for women. Using evidence-based approaches and recommendations, this guideline offers nurses a repertoire of strategies that can be adapted to various practice environments.

The scope of this guideline is on screening women for intimate partner abuse. The guideline includes all women in intimate relationships, 12 years of age or older and identifies:

  • Who should do the screening;
  • What should be included in screening; and
  • How and under what circumstances screening should occur.

While it is recognized that men may also be victims of intimate partner abuse, the incidence, nature and impact of that abuse is more severe for women. Although this guideline has been developed primarily for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs), it may also be used by other health care practitioners. As well, the recommendations included in this guideline are consistent with current legislation such as the Child and Family Services Act (Ontario), the Criminal Code of Canada and the Regulated Health Professions Act (RHPA) (Ontario). While the guideline may be used outside of Ontario, prior consultation with relevant provincial legislation is encouraged.

It is acknowledged that individual competence in screening varies between nurses and across categories of nursing professionals (RPNs and RNs) and is based on knowledge, skills, attitudes, critical analysis and decision-making skills, which are enhanced over time by experience and education. Individual nurses will perform screening for woman abuse following appropriate education and experience. It is expected that nurses will seek appropriate consultation when client care requirements exceed the nurse’s ability to act independently. Effective health care depends on a coordinated interdisciplinary approach incorporating ongoing communication between health professionals and clients, ever mindful of the personal preferences and unique needs of each individual client.

Revised 2012

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