ER nurses have empathy for domestic violence victims
Patients are screened as part of triage process.
Editor’s note: This occasional series sheds light on the various organizations and people in the community who are helping in the effort to put an end to domestic violence.
In the emergency room of Alomere Health, nurses and doctors try to screen patients for domestic violence as part of the triage process.
Unfortunately, it is rare that domestic violence victims actually identify themselves as that – a victim of domestic violence, according to Lori Rosch, registered nurse and director of the Alomere Health Emergency Department.
Many patients who come in with injuries resulting from a domestic violence situation often don’t say exactly how the injuries were sustained.
This is why screening patients is part of the triage process.
When ER nurses and/or doctors find that patients have injuries due to domestic violence, they will treat those injuries, but then they will also try to connect the patient with resources, including law enforcement as well as Someplace Safe.
Someplace Safe, which has an office in Alexandria, is a nonprofit organization with trained advocates who work one-on-one with victims of abuse.
The ER nurses also have handouts with multiple resources, including for housing and food, among others, said Rosch.
“We also have social services staff in-house who can also assist if needed,” she said. “In the end, we try to be warm and trustworthy, show compassion and empathy, hoping and praying we can be a stepping stone to a healthier life.”
Rosch said as caregivers, ER nurses and doctors have a strong desire to not only treat their patients who might be involved in a domestic violence relationship, but to rescue them from whatever situation they might be in.
“We know that the wounds and hurt run deep and we have limited time and contact with the patient,” she said. “We try to leave the individual at a minimum with the message that we are a safe place to come and we will assist with the resources we have.”
In speaking with her staff, Rosch said they could all count on one hand the number of actual patients who labeled themselves as domestic violence patients. She knows the numbers are much higher, but that again, when someone comes in with injuries sustained in that type of situation, they don’t say that is how the injury occured.
She also mentioned that during the coronavirus pandemic, they have found that some patients won’t be seen once they arrive at the ER and find out their spouse/partner/significant other can’t come with them due to restrictions.
However, she urges anyone involved in a domestic violence situation to be seen for their injuries.
“I believe most of us (the nurses and doctors) feel helpless and despair because most of the stories that we have experienced conclude with the victim returning to the same relationship that led them to us, the ER,” said Rosch.
She noted that to help end the vicious cycle of domestic violence, awareness and support are key.
Lending support for individuals who are in unhealthy relationships by being there for them or even volunteering for an organization that supports domestic violence victims are great places to start. Being aware of the resources available can also be helpful, she said.
And lastly, she said that legislation is another area that should not be forgotten.