Purpose To successfully intervene in cases of domestic violence (DV), physicians must recognize their own biases and emotional responses, as well as demonstrate the ability to empathize with victims. The objective of this study was to investigate students' ability to identify the perspective of a DV victim as well as their own emotions in response to the victim.
Methods 95 first-year medical students viewed a 2 minute video clip of a DV victim speaking to her physician. Immediately following the encounter, students completed a brief questionnaire including students' ideas of the patient's perspective and what the student would think or feel in the role of the physician. Two raters independently examined questionnaires for themes present in responses.
Results Students' feelings were directed at themselves (50% sorrow/sadness, 19% frustration) and the husband (51% anger towards husband) more so than the victim (25% compassion/sympathy). Students also identified their own concerns as worries of the victim (33% stigma of situation, 8% fear of addiction). Some students even admitted negative thoughts toward the victim (10%). Only 38% of students felt a responsibility to help the patient.
Conclusions The results demonstrate that victims of DV elicit emotions in medical students that may hinder treatment if not recognized. Educational interventions aimed at helping students treat victims should incorporate exercises in differentiating the patient's feelings versus the student's own feelings. Curricula should also identify how students' emotions affect their treatment of victims of DV and facilitate students' empathic responses to victims.