Purpose With proper training, physicians can effectively intervene in cases of domestic violence (DV). However, misguided advice may have disastrous consequences. To help guide the development of DV curricula, we conducted a needs assessment of first-year medical students.
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 regarding what they would say to the victim as the physician. Two raters independently examined questionnaires for themes present in responses (93% rater agreement).
Results The majority of students reported intent to convey concern for the patient (67%), the victim's need to seek counseling and support (50%), the victim's need to get away from her husband (45%), concern for the victim's children (36%), and statistics/information about DV (34%). While 82% of students recognized the victim's belief that she was responsible for her abuse, only 19% assured the victim that abuse was not her fault. Regarding reporting, only 16% of students would inform the patient of their obligation to report the abuse, 3% would report the abuse if there was a future episode, and 10% would report only if the victim requested such.
Conclusions The results indicate that although a majority of preclinical students intend to convey concern for the patient, they are unaware of their legal obligation to report DV and of the danger associated with advising the victim to leave her husband. Educational interventions must incorporate these key elements to meet the needs of novice medical students.
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