"It happens to clinicians too”: The prevalence, impact and implications of domestic and family violence against health professional women
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Elizabeth Veronica-Mary McLindon
Domestic and family violence (DFV) is a major health and social issue in Australia and across the globe. It affects people of all ages and walks of life, predominantly women and children. DFV is associated with a range of harms and impacts, and more frequent utilisation of health services is one. Consequently, health professionals find themselves at the frontline of responding to the health sequelae of violence and trauma in the family. However, healthcare is a gendered profession, where the majority of employees are women. How commonly DFV affects Australian women working in healthcare, and what, if any, association there is between a health professional’s personal experience of DFV and their clinical care of patients accessing healthcare for DFV, is not known. An additional gap in the evidence-base is understanding the needs and perspectives of both survivor health professionals and key stakeholders about the role of the healthcare workplace in supporting survivor staff, not just patients. To address these research gaps, the aim of this PhD study was to investigate the prevalence, clinical care impacts and workplace implications of DFV against an Australian population of women nurses, doctors and allied health professionals. This study utilised a combined methodological approach to collect both quantitative and qualitative data. The first phase of the project was a descriptive, cross-sectional survey of health professionals at a large Australian tertiary maternity hospital, in which 471 health professional women participated (45.0% response rate). Phase two followed, and individual and group interviews were conducted with 18 hospital managers and other key stakeholders. The original contributions of this thesis to new knowledge was the finding that DFV was common in the lives of the health professional women in this study: intimate partner violence (IPV) had affected one in ten (11.5%, 43) women during the last 12-months, and one third (33.6%, 146) of women since the age of sixteen. Sexual violence by an intimate partner was reported by 12.1% (51) of health professional women. Overall, just under half (45.2%, 212) of the participating health professional women had experienced IPV or violence from another family member (including childhood witnessing of DFV) across the life course. The second original finding of this study was that a health professional’s experience of DFV appeared to facilitate clinical care of survivor patients. Specifically, exposure to DFV was positively associated with preparedness to care for survivor patients through greater uptake of professional DFV training, more sensitive attitudes about survivors and more frequent access of information with which to resource survivor patients. The final original knowledge contribution was how hospital workplaces can best support their survivor staff, drawing on the perspectives and experiences of both survivor health professional women (n=93) and hospital managers (n=18). Survivors wanted their workplace to understand that DFV had affected them and to support both their individual needs and recovery as well as their professional capacity to respond to survivor patients. Managers recognised the imperative of a hospital workplace to ensure the availability of multifaceted support for survivor staff, and suggested mechanisms for this. Safety emerged as a key barrier to a more supportive workplace for survivor staff; participants were clear that occupational violence could render a workplace physically unsafe, and fear or uncertainty about how a disclosure of DFV would be responded to affected feelings of emotional safety. The findings of this thesis are presented across three publications. The results indicate that the cumulative trauma burden in Australian health professional women’s lives is high. That burden is added to by the risk of vicarious trauma that all health professionals face in a role where listening to patient histories of trauma and violence is routine. However, the survivors in this study did not present as enduringly vulnerable; on the contrary, they self-reported an informed and sensitive readiness to respond to patients with whom they have DFV in common. This research indicates the efficacy of a trauma and violence-informed framework to underscore and strengthen a recovery-orientated hospital response towards both survivor staff and patients.
KeywordsIntimate partner violence, Family violence, Domestic violence, Gender-based violence, Violence against women, Health Professionals, Health professional women, Australia, Australian, Personal experience, Prevalence, Impacts of violence against women.
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format" and choose "open with... Endnote".
- Click on "Export Reference in RIS Format". Login to Refworks, go to References => Import References