Family violence and Emergency Nurses’ clinical response. What do we know, how can we improve?

Ms Emily Morris1, Dr Caroline Fisher1, Simone Sheridan1, Georgina Galbraith1, Helen Gill1

1Royal Melboune Hospital, Parkville, Australia

Family violence research in health clinicians has largely focused on GPs, midwives and maternal child health nurses. In contrast there is less information about family violence training, knowledge and confidence levels in general hospital and emergency nursing staff.  This indicates a gap in the sector response. Given the time nurses spend with patients, and the rapport often developed, they are well situated to engage with patients on personal topics. Due to lack of education, recognising and responding to family violence has often been seen as something outside the scope of their role.

This research presents the emergency nursing results from the Royal Melbourne Hospital family violence clinician study, where responses from 64 emergency nurses were obtained, from a total of 242 nursing respondents, hospital wide. The results report on previous family violence training, staff knowledge and confidence levels, and clinician identified barriers to working safety with patients who are experiencing family violence.  These factors will be examined across years of experience and previous family violence training levels.

The presentation will then detail how this research has informed the roll-out of an Emergency department specific Family Safety initiative aimed at training emergency nursing staff to better identify, screen for and respond to patients experiencing family violence. It will also look at the creation of a routine screening question for potential family violence patients to be included in the hospital’s new electronic medical record system.

The experience of the Family Safety Lead Nurse Advocate trainer, who is also a clinical nurse in the Emergency Department will be presented, as well as discussion on strategies to engage the nursing workforce in this initiative. Experience in training staff to see Family Violence as a health issue, the development of Emergency Department family violence advocate network will also be discussed as well as key learnings.


Emily Morris is a registered nurse working both as a Family Safety Lead Nurse Advocate and in the Emergency and Trauma Department at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Emily has postgraduate qualifications in Emergency Nursing and is currently undertaking further postgraduate studies in Indigenous Engagement.