What is a Domestic Violence Nurse?

A domestic violence nurse works with people of all ages exposed to some form of domestic violence.

Domestic violence takes many forms and can impact individuals regardless of age or sex.

It includes partner-against-partner violence, adult against a child, or even abuse by another toward the elderly.

Domestic violence nurses assist patients with all forms of domestic violence, including physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, and psychological.

What Do Domestic Violence Nurses Do?

Domestic violence nurses perform numerous duties to support their communities and ensure people receive adequate care.

These specialists educate, support, protect and provide medical assistance to those experiencing domestic violence.

As a result, they require appropriate training and experience to identify the signs and symptoms of abuse.

Domestic violence nurses must understand abuse signs even when a victim is not explicitly seeking treatment for such abuse.

For instance, they must be aware of specific injuries or patterns that might indicate the likelihood of domestic violence.

Physical symptoms of abuse might include various aches and pains or illnesses related to stress, anxiety, or depression.

Sometimes domestic violence nurses examine a patient with no suspected abuse.

However, they may notice sudden signs/responses that trigger them to suspect the possibility of domestic violence.

A domestic violence nurse’s unique training enables them to identify potential abuse victims.

As a result, they can provide care, support, and treatment for those with domestic abuse-related illnesses or injuries.

Domestic Violence Nurse Responsibilities:

  • Assess the patient’s medical condition
  • Provide medical treatment and support
  • As questions to determine the likelihood of domestic violence
  • Examine the body for injuries related to physical abuse
  • Look for psychological signs of abuse
  • Educate patients about domestic violence programs
  • Consult other nurses and healthcare specialists
  • Act as liaison between the patient and physician
  • Report findings to the employer and law enforcement

When a domestic violence nurse suspects family abuse, the nurse will ask specific questions.

These questions encourage the victim to speak out about any possible domestic abuse.

These questions also serve as encouragement and are often helpful in getting reluctant victims to speak up.

Domestic abuse nurses listen, express belief in what the patient is describing, validate the patient’s disclosure of such information, and affirm that violence is not okay.

These healthcare professionals often check for signs and symptoms of abuse in everyday patients.

However, there are times when known abuse occurs, even without the typical signs.

In these cases, a domestic violence nurse has several tasks to complete for proper patient care.

Patient Care Steps Include:

  •  Assessment
  • Documentation
  • Safety awareness
  • Referrals

Domestic violence nurses who determine domestic abuse provide treatment, support, and education to the patient.

They may also provide vital information to their employer and assist law enforcement.

Assisting Law Enforcement

Depending on the information obtained and the nurse’s employer, they may need to report their findings to a supervisor, the police, or another agency.

The domestic violence nurse will assess the injuries experienced by the victim, whether physical or otherwise.

The nurse will then make appropriate documentation of the abuse if law enforcement or the judicial system needs it.

The domestic violence nurse will then discuss safety and potential arrangements for the victim and give appropriate referrals to necessary agencies and resources to help the victim.

Being a domestic violence nurse takes a lot of education and awareness.

However, it can be one of the more rewarding and personally fulfilling types of nursing due to its impact on survivors’ lives.

Where do Domestic Violence Nurses Work?

Domestic violence nurses operate in healthcare facilities providing care to those experiencing domestic abuse.

They also work in various community centers and public spaces to ensure individuals receive adequate medical care.

It includes hospitals, community clinics, public health departments, domestic violence support groups, and law enforcement agencies.

  • Hospitals
  • Community centers/clinics
  • Public health departments
  • Domestic violence support groups
  • Law enforcement agencies

How to Become a Domestic Violence Nurse

Becoming a domestic violence nurse is an enriching career for the patients and registered nurses who serve them.

This career requires sufficient training, education, and commitment to care for domestic violence victims/survivors.

There are numerous steps individuals must complete to become domestic violence nurses.

It includes joining nursing school, obtaining a degree, passing the NCLEX, gaining experience, and getting certified.

The following section explores each phase to provide a roadmap to joining this field of specialized healthcare workers.

1. Join a Nursing Program

The first step to becoming a domestic violence nurse is to join a nursing program.

Aspiring domestic violence nurses must complete multiple prerequisite courses to enter the program.

Depending on their prior education, it can take approximately 1 – 2 years to complete the necessary prerequisites.

In addition, students must maintain an acceptable GPA to enter the program based on the nursing school.

Some programs are very competitive, with limited seating, and each school has its GPA and prerequisite requirements.

As a result, many prospective nursing students apply to multiple schools to maximize their acceptance odds.

2. Obtain an ADN or BSN

After completing the required prerequisites and maintaining a sufficient GPA, students may apply to the nursing program.

Most nursing programs offer students two routes: the ADN or BSN degree.

The ADN degree offers the fastest entry into registered nursing and takes about 18 – 24 months to complete.

This degree is excellent for nursing students who want to quickly enter the field, gain experience and earn a salary.

Nevertheless, aspiring registered nurses who want to operate in specialized roles will want to obtain their BSN.

The BSN degree takes approximately 36 – 48 months to complete and provides more comprehensive nursing education.

As a result, obtaining a BSN helps prepare future registered nurses for specialized careers and non-entry-level positions.

Aspiring domestic violence nurses may want a BSN to maximize their odds of obtaining a job in this profession.

Many hospitals and healthcare institutions also prefer nurses with a BSN due to their extensive education and training.

Some nursing students pursue their ADN to enter nursing and begin developing experience quickly.

While working, registered nurses can take an online nursing program to obtain their BSN.

It enables them to support their lifestyle, gain hands-on training, and cover expenses while continuing schooling.

3. Pass the NCLEX-RN

After completing nursing school, graduates must pass the NCLEX-RN exam.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) administers the NCLEX exam.

This exam tests the competencies of nursing graduates to ensure they have sufficient training and education to operate as capable registered nurses.

Completing the NCLEX-RN exam is also necessary to obtain licensure and operate as a registered nurse.

4. Gain Work Experience

After getting certified and obtaining licensure, registered nurses must gain sufficient work experience.

Working in a hospital or urgent care setting for several years provides invaluable hands-on training in direct patient care.

It’s also beneficial to work in a forensic nursing or domestic violence setting and take relevant continuing education units.

It helps prepare registered nurses to obtain their certification and become certified domestic violence nurses. 

5. Get Certified

Certification is not always necessary to operate as a domestic violence nurse.

However, registered nurses may want to obtain specific certifications to specialize in particular domains.

Registered nurses can obtain forensic nurse, advanced forensic nurse, or sexual assault nurse examiner certification.

It allows them to demonstrate their competencies, skills, and expertise to potential employers.

It also enables registered nurses to be assured of their training, background, and knowledge of domestic violence support.

  • Forensic Nurse certification
  • Advanced Forensic Nursing Certification
  • Sexual Assult Nurse Examiner (SANE) certification

Nevertheless, some employers may require registered nurses to obtain certification for particular careers.

The certification needed to obtain a job in domestic violence nursing depends on the domain you want to pursue.

For instance, forensic nurses and sexual assault nurse examiners have numerous overlapping responsibilities and duties.

However, each specialist provides medical care, support, and expertise for distinct circumstances and patient groups.

They also have unique skills and education that enable them to work effectively in their specialization.

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