Dr Angela Crombie. Photo: Andrew Perryman.

Responding to the recommendations of the of the Royal Commission into Family Violence, Bendigo Health has been training staff to recognise and respond to the signs of domestic violence.

The program has been running since 2014 and Dr Angela Crombie, the Director of Innovations and Research said it had been an outstanding success.

“We evaluated our staff after delivering modules and were happy to say that everyone increased their knowledge of domestic violence and were better able to respond when it occurred,” she said.

Dr Crombie said the two areas in hospitals where domestic violence was most likely to occur were the Emergency Department and in the antenatal clinics. Across the board pregnancy is a domestic violence trigger.

She explained that in the latter setting, domestic violence would not usually be explicit but would rather take the form of a husband controlling his wife.

“When the wife is pregnant he will not leave her side. He will be intrusive and won’t let her talk for herself.

“He may withhold her medication or take her phone off her.

“Nurses are very good at reading these non-verbal cues.

“If a nurse feels the wife may be trying to deal with a possessive husband she will find an excuse to take the wife away from the husband.

“She may say something to the wife like ‘we have to take you to get a urine sample’.”

“Nurses are very good at relationship management,” Dr Crombie added with a smile.

Once it has been established that the woman is in need of help staff give her information and resources to start to deal with the problem.

According to Dr Crombie that help and advice is given in a discreet way so as not to provoke an abusive husband.

The woman also knows she can come back to the hospital to use the phone and seek further help.

Dr Crombie said the training consisted of an intensive one hour module.

“There are also other one hour modules around children and family violence and the impact on the elderly.”

Dr Crombie said Bendigo Health was proud to be instrumental in rolling out the training modules across rural and regional Victoria and has trained more than 10,500 hospital staff.

(While being gender specific Dr Crombie said that a small percentage of domestic violence was perpetrated by women on men.)

– DIANNE DEMPSEY