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Empathy needed for domestic abuse screening

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A&E nurses should ask open-ended questions to help encourage abused women to reveal evidence of domestic violence, suggest US and Canadian researchers.

They reviewed 871 interactions between clinicians and patients in emergency departments, of which around a third included screening for domestic violence.

‘We noticed that asking about domestic violence was often very routinised and similar to asking about health behaviours such as smoking or allergies,’ the authors said.

‘Taking the time to be empathic, voicing concern, checking to be sure that the patient is not in any current danger, and reinforcing the importance of following up with referrals are all part of effective provider-patient communication that can stop domestic violence,’ they added.

Annals of Internal Medicine (2007) 147: 620-627

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