Diagnosing domestic violence: N.L. surgeons learn how to spot the signs

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'He said, she said': Sex and sensitivity raised in complaints about doctors

'He said, she said': Sex and sensitivity raised in complaints about doctors

Doctors and nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador who deal with injuries like broken bones will soon be trained in how to recognize the signs of domestic violence.

It's part of a new national program called EDUCATE, which stands for Education on Domestic Violence: Understanding Clinicians' and Traumatologists' Experiences. 

The program is being rolled out at Canadian fracture clinics following a recent international study that discovered one in every 50 female patients who visit an orthopedic clinic with a sprain, strain or fracture had been injured as a result of being hurt by an intimate partner.

Eye opener

"People have been slipping through the cracks," said Dr. Andrew Furey, clinical chief of orthopedic surgery at Eastern Health, who will be among the first in this province to be trained in the new program.

He said the study really highlighted the extent and scale of the problem, and how medical staff should be on the alert for warning signs.

"I think all of us as a group of orthopedic surgeons across the country and the United States, it wasn't part of our training, but we're changing that."

Sometimes, it's just a matter of asking the patient directly, he said.

Furey said as more surgeons and nurses are trained in how to flag cases of domestic abuse, the realization is setting in that they may have missed identifying cases in the past. 

"It wasn't part of our culture, or part of what we were trained to recognize," he said.

To save a life

Surgeons at Eastern Health fracture clinics will be the first to get the training in recognizing domestic violence, but the plan is to then roll it out to include nurses and other health workers.

Furey said from what he can tell everyone is on board with the program, because they see it as just another way to make sure their patients get the help they need, even if it goes beyond just a broken bone.

"If we can cut them off from being injured again and again and again, then you've really actually saved a life," he said. "And that's why we got in medicine in the first place."